In the global economy, American workers are no strangers to fighting for manufacturing jobs that allow them to keep their union protections but also remain competitive against other countries where the pay is akin to slave-wages. Yet, it is surprising when American workers find themselves competing against their own company. Such is the situation for workers at the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The Chattanooga plant is competing with another plant in Mexico to win the contract to manufacture Volkswagen’s new mid-size sport-utility-vehicle. Coincidentally, the American workers are also voting on whether or not to accept union representation from the United Auto Workers. However on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Bob Corker said, according to Reuters, “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.”
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, VW released a statement later that night countering the U.S. Senator’s assertions and said that the union vote had no bearing on where the new automobile would be built. Yet, Corker stands by his previous statement.
An expert on the National Labor Relations Board and a professor of labor at the University of Indiana, Kenneth Dau-Schmidt was quoted by Reuters saying Corker’s announcement might be “grounds to set the election aside” and “run it again at a later date” because of his interference.
Corker has had a long history of hating the UAW, suggesting that they kill American jobs with their wage and benefit demands. He publicly sparred with them during the 2009 auto-bailout talks and—in a bit of irony—would prefer to see a German-style “works council” without a union. Yet, under U.S. law a company-sponsored union would be illegal.