published Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Labor group criticizes VW over hiring

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    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press A billboard on Amnicola Highway shows where immigrant workers hired by Volkswagen are from.

NASHVILLE — A labor-backed group is stepping up criticism of Volkswagen and prominent Tennessee politicians for what it contends is a failure to ensure the German auto manufacturer hires more local contractors and workers in Chattanooga.

In a direct-mail piece the group’s president says went to about 40,000 Hamilton County voters, Volunteers for Local Hire compares state and local economic incentives provided to VW to the hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government gave to banks.

“Look what our brilliant politicians gave Volkswagen,” the mailer states. “$600 million without insisting upon a local hire agreement.”

Companies from Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Germany are helping build the $1 billion plant, the mailer states. In some cases they have used workers from foreign countries, including Mexico and Honduras, according to the mailer.

Volkswagen Group of America general manager of communications, Guenther Scherelis, said in an e-mail that “as a general policy we do not comment on anonymous allegations.”

He said local and Tennessee companies will receive more than $379 million for plant construction. When construction is complete, VW will spend $308 million a year purchasing components from local and Tennessee-based suppliers for the midsize sedan the company will produce, he said.

Preference also is being given to local residents when it comes to hiring the plant’s 1,200-member production work force, according to VW.

“We have hired more than 120 production team members since the beginning of February, which are all from Hamilton County, long before production starts next year,” Mr. Scherelis said. “We will continue to hire throughout the year, and we will continue to give priority to Hamilton County citizens.”

In December, Volunteers for Local Hire took out a full-page ad in the Chattanooga Times Free Press to criticize Volkswagen’s hiring practices.

George Jones, president of Volunteers for Local Hire, said in an interview Friday the group is focused on plant construction.

Recently, he said, the group fired off letters to the state’s gubernatorial candidates, asking them to commit to including “stringent” local-hire provisions when granting incentives. The group also has rented billboards, including one near the VW plan. Mr. Jones declined to say what was spent.

The political-style mailer criticized U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Gov. Phil Bredesen; and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who is running for governor.

Sen. Corker defended VW and lashed out at Volunteers for Local Hire. He cited the German manufacturer’s recent hiring of Hamilton County production workers, noting, “there will be many more announcements like this to come. I don’t think anyone would be surprised that the D.C. office of the AFL-CIO would send around such an outrageous mailer.”

Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said, “It’s our belief a ‘hire Tennessee only’ law would have prevented companies like Volkswagen from coming to Tennessee.”

J.Ed Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for marketing and communications, said VW “is living up to its commitment to hire and do business locally and in Tennessee.”

The state’s current approach is “drawing billions of new investment and creating thousands of new jobs during the worst economic recession in decades,” he said. “We see no reason to alter this winning strategy.”

Mr. Jones said Volunteers for Local Hire’s backers include the national AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trade Department as well as several other unions and individuals from Tennessee, primarily from Chattanooga.

“Everything that we have said in our ads and in our Web site is true, and we can prove it,” Mr. Jones said. “We have people working on site. It’s just like when we originally charged there were undocumented foreign workers down there.”

Rep. Wamp said, “Any state job training funds or incentive packages should, of course, only be used to help create more jobs in Tennessee. And that’s certainly what Volkswagen is doing. So as long as Tennessee dollars are only being used to help create more Tennessee jobs, I don’t see any need for any new provisions.”

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, another GOP gubernatorial candidate, said, “What I’d like to do is help these companies hire Tennessee workers. A few weeks ago I announced an initiative that actually connects the fastest growing companies in Tennessee to small businesses for matchmaking opportunities.”

Mr. Jones said use of foreign nationals for construction is “somewhat on the decline.” He attributed that in part to his group’s criticisms. He also noted much of the lower-skilled work has been done and higher-skilled labor is on the rise.

Still, he said, the group remains concerned about upcoming construction at VW supplier plants and future state incentive-driven development projects.

Click here for more Volkswagen coverage

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
slr3 said...

When organized labor starts making the payroll , then they should be able to say who is hired & who is not. Until then they should let Volkswagen manage their business & spend their money how they want without creating this controversy.

April 11, 2010 at 6:57 a.m.
Elconquistador said...

Last time I posted here I used no foul nor offensive language and my comments were removed - Is this what your freedom of the press champions consider to be free speech ?

The sad truth is that Tennessee is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to education and job skills and civil behavior and the corporate folks have the right to seek and find quality - not just folks full of wishful thinking.

April 11, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.
Salsa said...

There are a lot of unemployed and experienced auto workers in this country right now. Of course VW is going to hire them over those with no experience.

April 11, 2010 at 9:39 a.m.
Elconquistador said...

Tennessee has ranked between 46th and 42nd in education.No doubt someone will read this and suggest it be removed. This is exactly why your state is in trouble with education & hiring. You can't handle the truth & so things will never improve. The people of TN have a lot of false pride about their state and like the Soviet Union of the past there are people who think that anything they don't want to hear should not be heard & therefore they will ask that any comments critical of their state should be removed from this board. One problem many states have is that they have plenty of money to spend on prisons but less for schools. We now have a prison industrial complex. Statistics prove that people in prisons are often very poorly educated. India and China have strict educational standards & are pumping out increasing numbers of engineers and scientists every year while the United States falls further and further behind. The US is steadily declining & will soon fall behind the 3rd world in many different categories. Our politicians & leaders like to keep the American underclass busy with political & racial polarity - black and hispanic vs white and conservative vs liberal. While the people at the bottom fight & squabble among themselves the people at the top get richer and richer and enjoy incredible health and pension benefits and fill their offshore bank accounts with bribe money from lobbyists.
The politicians do not & cannot afford to have the workers get too smart and become aware of this corruption & waste. As long as this is allowed to continue there will be no improvement in education & the people at the bottom will be encouraged to keep on disrespecting & hating each other. The last thing our greedy leaders want is a smart and unified work force. The use of drugs - both legal & illegal & the over consumption of alcohol, the love of sports, & the desire for instant gratification are all things that occupy too much of our time and robs our ability to act in a desciplined way which is necessary to achieve success in education which then leads to better jobs & a healthy life style. So go ahead & quit school, complain about the Mexicans this and the blacks that and the rednecks blah, blah, blah. Get drunk & stoned & sleep in. But please don't complain when corporations bring in workers from elsewhere to fill the jobs that require skill and education. Everyone has the same amount of time to go to school & improve themselves. Some folks use their time better than others and make disciplined sacrifices in the present in excahnge for a better future. If you are educated you won't feel threatend by folks pouring into the country to pick tomatoes & work janitorial jobs. You will never see or hear a wealthy person in Palm Beach complaining about some poor Mexican threatening their livelihood.

April 11, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.
Macallanlover said...

The radicals at the AFL-CIO have weakened this country for decades, who cares what their Washington based observers think about what is going on in Chattanooga? VW would be idiots to listen to American unions about how to run their company. Let's see, who is more successful in the auto business? The Germans/Japanese non-union approach, or the American union approach? Slam dunk. I would love to buy American again, but I am not going to buy an inferior car for my money and help support the un-American, socialist, Union groups. The last American car I bought was 1998 and it, once again, turned out to be a mistake.

VW seems to be doing fine without this orchestrated campaign's advice on how to operate. Stick it union leaders, you have stolen from the workers for the last 60 years, and compromised American quality while doing so. Letting people EARN jobs seems to work better; so a little old fashion competition between true American citizens (not illegals) seems to be the right way to go.

April 11, 2010 at 10:37 a.m.
My2centsworth said...

Whine and whine. The Unions are good at that, and slinging mud. At one time the unions were a needed evil. But that is just the past, now they are just Evil. Their membership is shrinking and boy are they crying. All their investments in stock, properties, and paying corrupt politicians are failing and they know it. Too bad for you. I agree with Elconquistador and Macallanlover. We all want our children to get a better education and yet we pay teachers very little, we want the best and brightest yet we give everyone a ribbon or prize just for being there. (Let us not hurt their little feelings for not winning or placing First). There is no real competition or for being the best. AND people wonder why America is in the situation it is in today. Take your touchy feely political correctness and put it in the trash where it belongs. OH yeah, and take your socialist agenda and put it where the sun doesn't shine. The only saving grace I see is the Olympics, at least they are the BEST we can offer to the world. How many of THEM got a medal for just showing up???

If I owned VW or any company I would want the best working for me and would not settle for less.

Think of it another way. Which doctor would you want to operate on you or your child - the one from the top of the graduating class with the most knowledge or the one who graduated by just showing up for class and barely passing???

USSA is one day closer if you do not Wake Up and fight the good fight.

April 11, 2010 at 11:55 a.m.
GARRS said...

Yea, so, we are short probably 5,000 jobs in Dalton, GA just south of Chattanooga, but yet we see a convoy of 1,000's of tenessee tags comming into Dalton filling all the jobs around here. It makes me really angry to read this article, then ride into a potential local employer and see 100 Tenessee tags in the parking.

Seems it works both ways for you.

April 11, 2010 at 12:35 p.m.
Elconquistador said...

My2centsworth hit the nail on the head. Recently a Little League pitcher was forced off the team because he was too good ! What kind of message does this send to our children ? Kids can't play dodge ball because someone might lose and feel bad. What has happened to America ? Now we are giving up the space program and allowing other countries to take the lead in space. Whoever controls the orbital space above the Earth will also control what is happening on the ground. God forbid that is is the ruthless Chinese who gain dominance in space.

April 11, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.
GARRS said...

And you will see a reemergance of unions since our government allowed employers to be able to fire people anytime for any reason, or no reason at all. People will only tollerate so much of that before they start to band together and punish the industries themselves.

April 11, 2010 at 12:40 p.m.
eyeonyou said...

I personally know workers in a Union that are certified in their field and some are apprentices who take test often to qualify for positions! They deserve good pay and to be respected as they are hard workers and have to pay their dues!!! It helps to have workers who understand saftey hazards, extensive training to know what is expected out of them as a whole! I feel many Co.'s in our community have much to offer as well!! We SAVED VW on TAXES to many other PERKS and I do feel they should utilize Hamilton Co. as much as possible & USA. We need more manufacturers here -vs- out of the Country for our steel! The environmentalist won't like that! We need more clothing to other factories... even under one of my Harley mugs it was printed made in CHINA! WHAT TAX BREAKS ARE BUSINESSES GETTING NOW? THE fINES, taxes, fees, REFORMS are pushing new business overseas. If we save Big Co.'s taxes etc... then use our products etc... or stay the heck where you are! How is this an opportunity if we can't break even? We the tax payer of Our County need to have an AGREEMENT signed from the start! Use a large percentage of us at each constuction phase & products made in USA or don't use our land! I have family members in the Unions elsewhere in the U.S. and (nothing is perfect) but it helped get them jobs! You pay temp services a percentage of your pay and some get it continuously "without" Medical etc... I know qualified people not in the unions at VW as well.... WE NEED A "FACTUAL LIST" of foreign workers out of the Country being used and where or through what Company. Good luck on this without a PRIOR AGREEMENT!!! Mayor Corker says we may not get companies to come over here "with" an agreement... We need to put politicians in there who will keep & promote more manufacturing HERE and HELP US on Taxes with NEW BUSINESS HERE, so we can fight this kind of problem!! We shouldn't have to pray for foreign Co.'s to come here!!! Look at the bottom of most of your household items... can you tell me I'm wrong? We need to make a big change NOW!

April 11, 2010 at 4:07 p.m.
eyeonyou said...

P.S. So much for your Toyota... not everything is better overseas! Why train in manufacturing if there are no factories here??? We need this to change!! Midwest Steel workers are not in our State and were used at VW as well... I do feel Hamilton Co. has qualified workers that I personally know... use them first! At least Midwest Steel are not out of the Country and many are fighting for a job: It is not easy for many. The world is unjust at times but I feel voices should be heard to make a change!

April 11, 2010 at 4:26 p.m.
rolando said...

You unionists really think VW gives a tinker's dam what you think? Go ahead. Picket them. See what it gets you besides a sunburn.

These people have been in the auto business for over 70 years...highly successful years, I might add. [I haven't seen them declare bankruptcy.] I look for VWAG [the parent company] to possibly takeover/buy out GM [a failing business supported by tax dollars]...then get rid of the unions or ship the entire company and all factory machines, presses, and equipment, etc overseas as Chrysler did.

April 11, 2010 at 5:59 p.m.
Humphrey said...

It's a really neat trick when you can get a foreign government to pay you $500-$750 million dollars to build a factory on their land with no strings attached, hire the cheapest labor you can find, and then get those foreigners to work for you and make your product and then also buy your product. All you have to do is count your euros. A generation ago American workers worked to beat Hitler and his VW the Japanese, now we want to pay them to let us work for them and buy their products.

April 11, 2010 at 7:13 p.m.
Macallanlover said...

Eyeonyou, good suggestion, I did just buy another Toyota product two weeks ago. Then I gave my 12 year old Lexus with 225,000 miles on it to a deserving young family that is struggling. It was a no-brainer, I would never invest that much in an American made car because it just will not hold up. Not that Americans can't build a good car, but they won't due to the Union attitude. Learn to compete and stop using a gun to the head to protect sorry workers with little pride. I know all union workers aren't sorry/lazy, but there is enough to make products made by them too expensive and unreliable. If you are skilled and talented, you will get paid and rewarded, stop hiding behind protectionism.

April 11, 2010 at 8:20 p.m.
eyeonyou said...

Hey, after all this I could use a strong German Beer! I just saw on our local news women cleaning house in the nude due to the poor economy! It takes talent to promote yourself no matter if your in a Union, foreign relations or just being a creative American!?!

April 11, 2010 at 11:41 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

Even today, after the recall, I would take a Toyota over a VW or a GM. I want something that will last, and the people I know who have VWs, GMs, Chryslers, etc. have them in the shop all the time.

April 12, 2010 at 7:53 a.m.
joseph said...

I have to chuckle at "Rolando's" comments about how successful VW has been as a company. Check your history, it wasn't that long ago that VW was a fading brand in the U.S. after the heyday of the original Beetle lost its luster. And lest you forget, they shut down a state-of-the-art plant in Pennsylvania not that many years ago because they couldn't get anybody to buy the Jetta or Golf. And oh, by the way, they have received billions over the years in subsidies from not just the U.S. government but the German one as well. However, as to the point about "best workers" I would make one observation. If you have applied for work on the VW site, for a the position of, say, "Administrative Assistant" did you know that with your high school diploma you would be expected to be fluent in both English and German. Granted the company's headquarters are in Germany, and I would expect the top level assistants working with German execs to have that skill. But to expect any high school graduate to have complete fluency in both languages is unrealistic at best. Administrative assistants are usually "entry-level" positions. No matter what you think of American love or disdain for languages other than english, That skill set would only be likely in a college grad,... and only in one who studied German_which by the way, is a very small percentage of American college students.

April 12, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.



The Term "Globalization" was not invented by Mexico, Venezuela, Honduras, Spain or Poland. Was an american Entrepeneur (and BTW a PASTOR!) who coined this Term on his book "corporate giants" in 1897.

So Globalization is COMPETING EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME!! Stop Crying about immigrants whose only purpose is to COMPETE even if this means sacrificing their families, friends and home in order to provide a better future for their families. JUST LIKE YOU.

Therefore, Stop complaining and Start COMPETING!!! ALL THE TIME EVERYWHERE.... See More... See More

AND PLEASE, PLEASE!! TAKE SOME GEOGRAPHY CLASSES BEFORE PUTTING FLAGS IN A BILLBOARD. psss psss (that's not the Venezuelan flag, that's Uruguay's Boby)

April 19, 2010 at 9:51 a.m.
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