Attorneys for Chattanooga Volkswagen workers opposed to the United Auto Workers said Tuesday the union is using "false evidence" in its request to delay an April 21 hearing on an its appeal to a February union vote.
But UAW President Bob King sought again Tuesday to lay the blame for what he said was a flawed election on Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other politicians he says violated VW workers' rights by threatening plant employees.
"That Haslam and other Tennessee officials used the power of their elected office to intimidate workers into voting against representation isn't surprising," King said in a column on the UAW's website. He added that the political leaders "made no secret of their disdain for the UAW or the right of Volkswagen workers to freely choose representation."
But attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, representing five workers in the UAW appeal of the election before the National Labor Relations Board, said that whether any organization campaigned against the UAW in the Feb. 12-14 election is immaterial because that's not grounds for overturning the vote.
"The UAW's case proceeds from the misguided premise that it is objectionable if any entity campaigned or spoke against the union in the election. While this belief may reflect how elections are conducted in Venezuela or North Korea, it does not reflect how elections are conducted in this free nation," the attorneys said.
The Foundation in its brief also hit a statement by a UAW member included in a union filing with the NLRB earlier this week. The filing said Sandra Haasis overheard a Feb. 2 cellphone conversation at the Atlanta airport by Foundation attorney Glenn Taubman regarding the VW vote.
However, the Foundation said Taubman was not in the Atlanta airport on Feb. 2, but instead at his Fairfax, Va., residence as cell phone records prove.
"In fact, he has not been in Atlanta since August 2, 2013. The phone conversation that Ms. Haasis swears Mr. Taubman conducted never occurred," the Foundation's brief said.
"That the UAW resorted to filing a false declaration that could be so easily disproved to attempt to show the existence of a grand and secret conspiracy being waged against it smacks of the desperation and paranoia increasingly gripping the union," the Foundation said.
The UAW lost the recognition vote at the Chattanooga plant by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. It later appealed for a revote, saying politicians and third-party groups interfered with the election. The NLRB has set an April 21 hearing date on the appeal, but the UAW this week asked for a delay, citing new evidence included in leaked state of Tennessee documents.
King said in his column the documents show that elected officials were coordinating with national anti-union groups.
"But the coercion of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives for expansion of their plant sealed the deal," he said.
One document showed the state last year offered $300 million in incentives to VW to attract a new vehicle line to Chattanooga. The offer sheet said the incentives were contingent on VW discussions about setting up a works council at the plant being concluded to the "satisfaction" of the state.
Haslam, however, said the incentives were never tied to an outcome of the UAW vote, and that the package was not used as leverage against plant workers.
The governor said that including the "satisfaction" sentence wasn't a threat, but "just a statement of reality."
"Remember this also, any incentive deal that we do has to be approved by the Legislature," Haslam said on Wednesday. "And we had that discussion with them all along, that it was going to much more difficult if the union vote happened."
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...