Corker Fears UAW Would Have "Dampening Effect" On Chattanooga

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Senator Bob Corker at VW press conference
Senator Bob Corker at VW press conference
- photo by Hollie Webb

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon, "It's not about union or anti-union, it's about the way the UAW conducts business."

He said, "I know the Volkswagen management would be very open to employees weighing in if they want to form their own union" but that the UAW and similar entities "have been such a destructive force in the automobile industry."

Senator Corker said he decided to speak out after concerns that some of his previous statements had been misconstrued by the UAW. He said, "We had concerns they were using my words inside the plant to support what the UAW was doing."

He told those in the room, "The greatest moment of my career was getting the call that Volkswagen was coming here. It was an incredibly emotional moment." He said he and former County Mayor Claude Ramsey worked for years to ensure the the success of the plant.

Discussing the UAW, he said, "I was very inovled in the auto bailout discussions, I know them well." He said during that time, even the Obama administration "slapped them down."

Senator Corker said, "Their key to survival was to be able to come down and organize the plants in the southeast." He also said the UAW was the biggest shareholder in General Motors, one of Volkswagen's biggest competitors.

He said, "We actually like the Works Council. We love the collaborative approach. We are concerned about the impact an outside entity could have on our community. Look at Detroit."

He said companies had already expressed concern about moving to a state where the UAW was having momentum.

He asked "How many companies from Germany, South Korea, from other parts of the world, are going to Detroit when they begin looking at where they're going to open a plant? I don't think you'll find many."

He said he believed that if the UAW succeeded, they would act well for three to five years, but said, "I know that over time, based on past behavior, they'll do things to damage this community."

He also pointed out that the Volkswagen employees had little to gain from the UAW in terms of wages, saying they already had higher wages than any plant that has worked with the UAW. He also said their working facility was one of the "finest in the world."

He said, "I have tremendous empathy for the employees. They're in the middle in some ways of something that is much bigger than what's happening at the plant."

He also expressed concern that employees were not able to hear both sides because of a neutrality agreement that the Volkswagen management is in. He said, "I'm absolutely convinced, if local management could just voice their concerns, the UAW would never win."

However, he said, "We don't care about the UAW in the scope of things, we care about the community."

He said, "I"m sorry to express so much passion on this issue, but I love this community. I love living here. I love driving across the railroad tracks into downtown."

He said, "For 25 years now our community has been on an upward march. It's been incredible how people from all walks of life have come together to take our community to where it is today."

He told the audience he wanted Chattanooga to keep making progress but that he was concerned the UAW would have a "dampening affect" on this.

"We're concerned that if they come in and actually win this election, it's something that we can overcome, but it's something that will hurt businesses and the standard of living here."

He said, "I care deeply that those who come after us have a a better future and a better way of life."


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