By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON Feb 27 Tennessee Senator Bob Corker
called on federal authorities on Thursday not to muzzle
lawmakers who are opposed to union organizing as they consider
the United Auto Workers' appeal of a failed effort to represent
workers at a Volkswagen plant in his state.
Saying Corker and other politicians interfered in the vote,
the UAW filed an objection with the National Labor Relations
Board to the result of the Feb. 12-14 election, in which workers
at VW's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant voted to
reject union representation.
The Republican senator, a former Chattanooga mayor, issued a
statement during the vote saying he had had conversations that
led him to believe VW would manufacture a new sport utility
vehicle in Chattanooga if workers rejected the union.
Corker said the NLRB would be making a potential "landmark"
decision. The board has ruled repeatedly, when Democrats voiced
support for unions, that public officials properly exercised
their right to free speech, he said.
"I hope that the NLRB will understand and realize the
magnitude of what they are going to be deciding and in no way
will try to muzzle public officials who are community leaders
from expressing their point of view," he said during a meeting
with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
Corker noted that President Barack Obama had also waded into
the fight by accusing skeptical politicians of being "more
concerned about German shareholders than American workers."
Corker said he spoke out to counteract misinformation from
the auto workers union. "The UAW had been spreading rumors that
the only way a new SUV line was going to come to the plant and
double its size, the only way that was going to happen was if
the plant was organized by the UAW," he said.
The UAW denies that organizers allowed into the plant in the
week ahead of the vote's start said anything about needing a
union vote result to bring the new product to the Chattanooga
plant. Union officials say they have been consistent in saying
the result of the vote would not affect VW's decision on where
to place the new product.
Corker did not answer when asked if VW officials were the
source of his comment about the company's plans for the SUV
He reiterated his harsh criticism of the UAW, among other
things accusing it of trying to organize in Tennessee only to
raise more dues money to shore up its flagging finances.
"I think it was very apparent the UAW was in Chattanooga for
one reason - dollars," Corker said.