published Friday, November 25th, 2011

Autoworkers still not happy with Bob Corker

  • photo
    U. S. Senator Bob Corker delivers the keynote address at the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center in this file photo.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press

SPRING HILL, Tenn. — Autoworkers' joy at getting vehicle production back on line at General Motors' Spring Hill plant has done little to quell their disdain for Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.

Corker was a lead critic of the federal government bailout of automakers in 2009, and pushed for wage and benefit concessions from the United Auto Workers. Many Spring Hill workers felt Corker's stance did little to keep the plant from being idled that year.

The senator was booed and heckled by the audience when he spoke at a ceremony Monday to announce the plant outside Nashville will begin making vehicles again next year. Corker listened to 20 seconds of jeers after his introduction in the plants manufacturing hall.

"I see the saga continues," Corker told the crowd. "I think everyone knows that we've had our differences in the past. And I can tell today that that's fine with you, and it's fine with me."

Corker then urged workers to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the company's investment in the plant that is projected to result in 1,900 jobs by the 2015 model year.

"Citizens across our country have invested in GM, and you and the company have been offered a new lease on life, and a new opportunity to rebuild a great American enterprise," Corker said.

"It's my hope that you will respond by waking up every day and working tirelessly to make this company great again," he said.

The audience showed no similar acrimony toward Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who as governor helped persuade General Motors to build its Saturn plant in Tennessee in the 1980s. Alexander in turn praised GM and the union for working to bring back auto manufacturing to Spring Hill.

Alexander noted after the event that Tennessee laws remain friendly to companies without unionized labor, such as automakers Nissan Motor Co. in Smyrna and Volkswagen AG in Chattanooga.

"People have a right to join a union, or not join a union," Alexander said. "And I think it's a great compliment to our state that a General Motors-UAW partnership can be successful, and so can a Nissan partnership."

The event also featured union speakers who praised Democratic President Barack Obama's policies and extolled the virtues of organized labor and collective bargaining.

Alexander downplayed the hostility displayed toward the junior senator from Tennessee.

"I think Bob Coker is a very effective, popular United States senator," he said.

On his way out of the event, Corker declined to delve into his relationship with the UAW.

"You know, I don't really want to comment," he said. "My public comments are my comments."

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riverman said...

Exactly why I would never buy a car made by UAW members. If you want to see what unions do to a community check out the cesspool that is Detroit.

November 25, 2011 at 2:18 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Yeah, it was those greedy union workers demands that bankrupted Detroit. The situation had nothing to do with corporate execs who shipped the plants over seas because their multi-million dollar salaries, gigantic bonus packages, lavish spending accounts, and private corporate jets just weren't enough to keep them happy.

How sad the working class has gotten that instead of holding accountable the fat cats who demand ridiculous tax cuts, make hundreds of millions in profits, then ship jobs overseas so they can make even bigger bonuses, we criticize the unions that try to get workers a fair share of the corporate pie. This is the reason the middle class is shrinking - we ignore the real problem and attack other working class folks who have managed to eek out a decent living. Maybe folks like riverman will come around before the entire middle class is eviscerated.

November 25, 2011 at 5:16 p.m.
Facts said...

The idiots booing Senator Corker don't have the capability to understand that the return of automotive work in Tennessee is linked to one fact: TN is a Right-to-Work state. The cost of doing business in Tennessee is less than the UAW-choked states. Yes, there's corporate greed in every company. However, the poster child of all dishonest business lies in the current unions. The unions of 50 years ago are now in the hands of those who have the exact same intentions of the pin-stripe-wearing corporate officer pocketing profits at the expense of integrity.

November 25, 2011 at 7:03 p.m.
WHS1970 said...

While unions have both good and bad points, without them, workers would be at the owners mercy. I don't expect anyone that has never worked without union representation to understand the importance of being supported by a union. Unions are far from being perfect, but it is a good support system if need be. How could anyone that is worth 60 million like "Lil" Bob or Lamar Alexander understand the workers side of the collective bargain process? Trickle down economics only work if you are at the top of the heap.

November 25, 2011 at 7:06 p.m.
Oz said...

I bet the GM and Chrysler dealers forced out of business would have preferred the Corker plan.

November 25, 2011 at 8:36 p.m.
hambone said...

The decline in union membership is paralleled by the decline in the middle class!

November 25, 2011 at 9:30 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Right to work really equals right to screw over your employees if so inclined.

November 25, 2011 at 9:31 p.m.
riverman said...

I agree with you Amanda about the Management of the Big 3, they were equally responsible along with the unions for destroying the domestic auto industry.

November 25, 2011 at 10:04 p.m.
Echo said...

Well Amanda, you seem to profess a lot of knowledge about the auto industry in Detroit, what UAW plant did you work at? The one where I worked as a supervisor alongside UAW Local 597 had a lot of dinner break drinking and pot smoking. Fairly common. You couldn't really stop it because the slate was wiped clean at the next labor negotiation and the work rules made it difficult to back fill a suspended employee. So don't give me your commie party line. The days of "anything goes" are over. Detroit's big 3 problems were related to underfunded pensions just like our government is doing with social security, and non-competitive wages, not how much Bill Ford earned. If you cant live on your auto-wage, become a brain surgeon.

November 26, 2011 at 1:07 a.m.
bookworm said...

Well Feathermerchants, it's our trade policies; NAFTA and GATT, that are wreaking hell with our auto industry ___ not our unions. This permits our union workers to have to compete against low wage non-union workers in very poor third world countries. This is what happened to Flint, Michigan when GM moved to Mexico for cheap labor. This drives down wages of all working Americans.

November 26, 2011 at 6:31 a.m.
Jack_Dennis said...

No sense in trying to argue with union hacks. They're the most selfish, self serving lot in the USA. Just look at the thug union leadership.

November 26, 2011 at 8:21 a.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

You're right, Echo, I've never worked in the auto industry. Of course, the fact that you've never worked in public schools hasn't stopped you from making scores of comments about them or the teachers' unions, so I guess we're even there. I'm sure there were problems beyond extravagance and greed on the part of the executives, but if you can't see the slightest link between the rise of executive level compensation, the shipment of manufacturing jobs oversees, and the decline of the middle class, then you're obviously too far gone for me to waste my time on. I doubt the union was perfect, and from time to time, poor employees were kept on. The same thing happens in non-union places of employment. However, my father worked in a union shop for 30 years - 15 of them as a supervisor - and he managed to get rid of a number of lazy employees in his time. If you couldn't get rid of one who was doing drugs while on the job, then your poor skills as a supervisor were clearly part of the problem too.

November 26, 2011 at 6:50 p.m.
BravesDave said...

WHS1970? And he EARNED every penny of it. He started as a poor, college graduate with 1 beat-up old pickup truck and worked and worked and worked his butt off to be successful. You should try it instead of bitching about someone else's drive. Your opinion mirrors the losers in this society and presently camped out in a tent nearby complaining because they don't work but want those who do to feed, clothe and house them.

November 27, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
J3rrYcid said...

I realize it is very hard to please everybody. Even if it is a plan that might help as many people as possible, the employees who do not benefit will still complain. If the government did not bailout the auto makers, all those employees would have lost their jobs. Melanie -

March 15, 2012 at 10:19 p.m.
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