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Workers at Volkwagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant are in the middle of voting on whether to join a union—and their senator is making some very serious threats about the outcome of the vote:
"I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga," said [Sen. Bob] Corker, without saying with whom he had the conversations.
In the past few weeks, Volkswagen officials have made several statements that the vote will have no bearing on whether the SUV will be made at the Chattanooga plant or at a plant in Puebla, Mexico.
If Volkswagen told workers that it would move production away from Chattanooga on the basis of a union vote, that would be a violation of labor law; telling a public official that and sending him out to levy the threat wouldn't be a lot better. It's also in direct contrast to something an actual VW official said last fall:
Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's global works council, said in a statement that forming a council was important if the plant wanted to produce other VW cars and that he would keep talking with the UAW.
Works councils bring managers and workers together to make decisions about some factory policies; workers would have to unionize to have one in the United States. Under pressure from its strong German union and because it knows works councils do work, Volkswagen is officially neutral in this union election. Corker's public, and legally questionable, threats are an astonishing move by a public official. It's not Corker's first such public temper tantrum over the possibility of a union in Chattanooga; he's called Volkswagen "very naive" for its openness to a union in the past. Now he's apparently graduated to making the threats he wishes VW would—at whatever cost to his state's economy.