State Senator Bo Watson speaks at press conference
photo by Hollie Webb
In a press conference to address the potential unionization of the Volkswagen plant, State Senator Bo Watson said, "Should the workers at Volkswagen choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe any additional incentives from the citizens of the state of Tennessee for expansion or otherwise will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate."
He said, "I do not see the members of the Senate having a positive view of Volkswagen because of the manner in which this campaign has been conducted."
He stated, "The workers that will be voting, need to know all of the potential consequences, intended and unintended, should they choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers."
He said, "Einstein said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is truly the definition of insanity." He told the audience that the union might start out well, but said history showed it would not end that way.
He reiterated that Tennessee was a "Right to Work" state and "pro-business."
Senator Watson said, "I believe the members of the Tennessee Senate will not view unionization as in the best interest of Tennessee. The Governor, the Department of Economic and Community Development, as well as, the members of this delegation, will have a difficult time convincing our colleagues to support any Volkswagen incentive package."
He also said the unionization would make their job "exponentially more challenging."
He continued, saying, "I encourage the workers at Volkswagen to carefully consider the decision they will make this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I ask that they consider the effects, not just within Volkswagen, but within our community, our state, and our region."
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said, “I encourage the employees of Volkswagen to reject bringing the United Auto Workers Union into the Plant and into our community. As you consider your vote, ask yourself this question - Will I be better off with the UAW? When you consider that question, I believe the answer will be NO! I wish the UAW had been willing to have an open and fair debate within the workplace. The fact that the UAW refused to allow all points of view to be heard and discussed demonstrates how they are unwilling to have an open, honest representation to ALL employees.
"The taxpayers of Tennessee reached out to Volkswagen and welcomed them to our state and our community. We are glad they are here. But that is not a green light to help force a union into the workplace. That was not part of the deal.
"To the employees of Volkswagen: You are leaders, and you are setting the course for the future of our community and our region. You have performed well. You have built the Car-of-the-Year. You have good wages and benefits. All of this happened without the heavy hand of the United Auto Workers. I urge you to keep your voice and vote NO.”
A protest group in support of the union, calling themselves "Millionaires for Wealthcare," also showed up for the press conference. After Senator Watson finished, their members applauded and said, "Thank you for being champions of the 1 percent."
They held signs that read, "Bonuses for CEOS, not workers!"
The group also handed out a satirical press release. They said, "Millionaires for Wealthcare supports cheap labor, taxes on labor to support subsidies for our big corporations, no democracy in the work place, high CEO bonuses, and unlimited campaign contributions and the politicians that support those policies."
Senator Bob Corker set a press conference on the VW vote on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at the EPB Building.
He said Monday, “I am very disappointed the UAW is misusing my comments to try to stifle others from weighing in on an issue that is so important to our community. While I had not planned to make additional public remarks in advance of this week’s vote, after comments the UAW made this weekend, I feel strongly that it is important to return home and ensure my position is clear.”
The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Tennessee’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee "expressed concern regarding the United Auto Workers (UAW) upcoming vote in Chattanooga, saying a vote for organized labor would harm Tennessee’s reputation as a business-friendly state and reverse the state’s recent progress in automobile-related job growth. Chairman Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Vice-Chairman Mark Green (R-Clarksville) said the General Assembly has worked in concert with Governors Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam for the past several years to move forward policies to support Tennessee’s competitive standing in growing and expanding new and better paying jobs in the state. The lawmakers said that pending decisions of VW employees are of statewide interest at a pivotal time when Tennessee stands currently as a national leader in job creation.
“We greatly value our auto workers, both in Middle Tennessee and in Southeast Tennessee,” said Senator Johnson, a businessman whose legislative district is home to the General Motors Spring Hill plant and Nissan’s North America headquarters. “Our communities are very similar with great neighborhoods, schools that focus on achievement and a local economy that is envied by many. The automotive industry is a very important part of the quality of life we enjoy.”
“As Chattanooga workers vote on the United Auto Workers presence, it is a decision that transcends just one community,” he added. “There is tremendous competition for job growth among states. A vote for organized labor would impede our daily efforts to benefit Tennessee families as we compete nationally in job growth. I ask that Chattanooga lead to honor Tennessee's competitive spirit so we can continue moving our state’s job growth forward. Chattanooga workers, we don't need the UAW in our state.”
“In business, reputation means a lot,” added Senator Green, who is a practicing physician and businessman who represents the more rural Clarksville region that competes with industry across the state-line of Kentucky. “Tennessee has developed a reputation of a top location for families and businesses because of the lower cost of living, commitment to an educated workforce and folks keeping more of our wages by holding taxes low.”
“Volkswagen chose our state and your community for important reasons: Chattanooga workers have a great reputation of a great work ethic and make an excellent product. That reputation has been yours without the United Auto Workers,” he continued. “The free market that VW chose in our state produces competition, empowers employees far more than a labor union, and keeps bringing jobs to Tennessee."
"In my 20 years on the hill, I’ve never seen such a massive intrusion into the affairs of a private company,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “When management and workers agree—as they do at Volkswagen—the state has no business interfering. Words have consequences and these type of threats could have a ruinous effect on our state’s relationships with not just Volkswagen, but all employers.”
“This is an outrageous and unprecedented effort by state officials to violate the rights of employers and workers,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “Republicans are basically threatening to kill jobs if workers exercise their federally protected rights to organize. When the company says they don’t have a problem with it, what right does the state have to come in and say they can’t do it?”
Voting will take place at Volkswagen starting on Wednesday and ending on Friday on whether to allow the United Auto Workers to represent workers at the plan.
photo by Hollie Webb