* National Labor Relations Board to review union's appeal
* UAW calls Republican Senator Corker's conduct "shameful"
* Corker says "disappointed" with union appeal to NLRB
By Kevin Drawbaugh
Feb 21 The United Auto Workers filed an appeal
with the U.S. government on Friday, asking it to set aside the
results of an election last week in which workers at a Tennessee
Volkswagen plant voted not to join the union.
Citing what it called "interference by politicians and
outside special interest groups," the UAW said the U.S. National
Labor Relations Board would investigate the election and decide
if there are grounds to scrap it and hold a new one.
The move by the union escalates a battle with anti-union
Republicans that has intensified as the UAW, its membership
rolls in decline, has tried hard to organize workers at
foreign-owned, non-union auto plants across the American South.
Labor lawyers and academics said last week it would be
difficult for the union to make a case for setting aside the
election. They said labor law does not limit what can be said in
a union election campaign by politicians, as long as they are
stating their own views and not doing the bidding of management.
The law does strictly limit the statements that can be made
by management and the union itself, they said.
An NLRB spokesman said the UAW will have seven days to
provide evidence. An NLRB regional director will investigate and
a hearing will likely follow. Chattanooga falls under the
purview of the board's regional director in Atlanta.
The UAW said in a statement that its appeal details "a
coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign conducted by
politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen
workers of their federally protected right to join a union."
The election loss at the plant in Chattanooga was a blow to
the UAW, which spent two years trying to convince the workers
there to unionize, but still lost, even with the support of VW.
A spokesman for VW in Chattanooga declined to comment.
Conservative Republicans spoke out against the UAW in the
final days of the election campaign. Among the most vocal
critics of the union was Tennessee Republican Senator Bob
Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga.
The UAW said its appeal calls Corker's conduct "shameful and
undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens
of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen."
CORKER FIRES BACK
Corker said in a statement he was "disappointed" by the UAW
appeal. "The UAW is only interested in its own survival and not
the interests of the great employees at Chattanooga's Volkswagen
facility nor the company for which they work," he said.
Last week, as the three-day election campaign came to a
head, Corker said publicly that he had learned Volkswagen would
bring an additional production line for SUVs to the plant,
creating more jobs, if workers rejected the UAW.
VW officials contradicted Corker at the time, saying a
decision on the additional line was unrelated to the election.
By inserting himself and his statements into the campaign,
the senator raised questions about whether he had contaminated
the voting. NLRB rules bar management during union election
campaigns from trying to frighten workers with threats of job
cuts or layoffs if they vote for a union.
Corker returned to the same theme on Friday, saying in his
statement, "I have to assume that today's action may slow down
Volkswagen's final discussions on the new SUV line."
President Barack Obama, who had the support of labor unions
in both his White House election campaigns, last week accused
politicians in Chattanooga of being "more concerned about German
shareholders than American workers," according to a Democratic
aide who heard the remarks at a closed meeting with lawmakers.
DEMOCRATS HAVE NLRB MAJORITY
Obama recently got a majority of Democrats appointed to the
five-member NLRB, which is historically more pro-union when
Democrats hold the White House, and less so when Republicans do.
UAW President Bob King blasted what he called "extraordinary
interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S.
senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature
threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and
workers with a loss of product."
Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said in a
statement: "For 30 years, tens of thousands of new auto jobs
have raised Tennessee family incomes and our workers have
decided in almost every case that they are better off
union-free. The UAW may not like this, but that is the right of
employees in a right-to-work state like Tennessee."