| DETROIT, Sept 12
DETROIT, Sept 12 A Tennessee state legislator is
trying to prove that the governor promised Volkswagen AG
additional incentives if the company kept the United
Auto Workers union out of its two-year-old Chattanooga plant.
Rep. Mike Turner, head of the Democratic Caucus in the
Tennessee House, has asked Gov. Bill Haslam's office to turn
over communication between the governor's office and Volkswagen.
Turner said Tennessee state law requires legislative approval to
provide such incentives.
Turner said that he "has it on good authority" that Haslam
has told VW officials that Tennessee will sweeten the deal for
the company if it can stave off the UAW.
"I've never seen a so-called conservative free market
business person using government to interfere in a private
matter for the Volkswagen corporation," said Turner in a
telephone interview with Reuters on Thursday. "That smacks of
Haslam, a Republican, has spoken against the unionization of
the 2,500 Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga.
Volkswagen and the United Auto Workers earlier this month
said they are in talks about the U.S. union's bid to represent
workers at Chattanooga, which would be a milestone in the UAW's
long-running effort to organize foreign-owned auto plants.
Specifically, Turner is asking for any correspondence that
"pertains to any incentives for Volkswagen or the discussion of
unionization of current or future Volkswagen employees,"
according to a Freedom of Information Act request Turner filed
with Haslam's office on Tuesday.
Haslam and the governor's office will work to fulfill
Turner's request, David Smith, the governor's press secretary,
said in an email.
Smith did not address Turner's allegations about incentives,
saying the governor's office does not talk about specific
projects but will "continue to work with Volkswagen to bring
more jobs to Tennessee."
Earlier this week, Bob Corker, a U.S. Republican senator
from Tennessee and former mayor of Chattanooga, said VW would be
harming itself if it allows the UAW to represent workers at the
plant, and that the company would be a "laughingstock in the
But Turner said the state could lose jobs if Tennessee,
where the legislature is controlled by Republicans, plays a hand
in keeping a U.S. union out of the plant in Chattanooga.
"I think it could hurt us when other European companies
think about locating in Tennessee," said Turner, whose father
was a UAW member at a now-closed Ford Motor Co glass plant
A Volkswagen spokesman said the company does not comment on
incentives from Tennessee or any government.
Large auto plants in the United States generally receive
large tax breaks and other incentives from states where they are
Volkswagen will receive as much as $707 million of state and
local incentives from tax credits over 20 years and property tax
breaks over 30 years as well as assistance to pay for worker
training, utility infrastructure as well as the donation of the
property where the plant sits, according to a document provided
by Turner's office.