County Mayor Jim Coppinger, in a statement issued on the eve of a union election at the local Volkswagen plant, urged VW workers to reject the United Auto Workers.
He said, "It is a big week in Hamilton County as more than 1,700 workers at Volkswagen Chattanooga decide whether they want to be represented by the Detroit-based United Auto Workers (UAW).
"When people think of unions in Chattanooga, they often think of our local trade unions – unions that teach workers the skills necessary to succeed in their respective industry; unions that are a positive force in the workplace and contribute to the community; unions that work with companies.
"I have seen first-hand the benefits of productive trade unions and have appreciated their support over the years. But the UAW is not a typical union – unlike a “works council” in Germany – and has a long and troubled track record to prove it.
"Out of all the foreign-owned auto facilities that have been organized in the United States by the UAW, none have survived under foreign ownership. This includes Volkswagen’s last U.S. production facility, which closed in the late 1980s within 10 years of being organized after reports of “walkouts and wildcat strikes” and “chronic labor issues.”
"As our state’s commissioner of economic and community development, Bob Rolfe, recently wrote, 'Volkswagen Chattanooga’s presence has brought more than 16,400 jobs to Tennessee, and the company has invested more than $3 billion in our state. And as we all know, Volkswagen previously announced plans to hire another 1,000 workers and invest $800 million to build its electric vehicle at Enterprise South.'
"Commissioner Rolfe also warned that 'allowing unionization to occur at Volkswagen' could harm economic development recruitment in our community and around the state and 'negatively impact the livelihoods of thousands' of Tennesseans. And our state lawmakers have warned that the incentives that have been so critical to the plant’s success and continued expansion could be at risk if the UAW takes over.
"So, the question facing the workers voting this week is simple: do we really want to risk it all?
"We have a good thing going here in Hamilton County. Our unemployment rate is below the national average and average weekly wages in our county surpass most all neighboring counties. And Volkswagen is a major reason for our success. Employing around 3,800, Volkswagen brings the average wage in our community up, with the average production worker at the plant earning 25% more than the average Chattanooga production worker.
"The coming decision is a big one and one I do not envy. I know that no workplace is perfect. But I also believe that the best way for workers to have their voices heard is to be able to communicate directly with their supervisors – a right that would be taken away if the UAW is allowed inside the plant.
"Ultimately, the final decision is up to the more than 1,700 workers who will be voting this week. I respect the right of every worker to make their own decision, but it is my hope that they will keep in mind what is at stake. We are making great progress in our community and don’t need outsiders to take us off course. For the good of the workers, for the good of the plant, for the good of our entire community, it is my hope that Volkswagen Chattanooga workers will reject the UAW once again."