Weston Wamp, Helton, Several Legislators Urge VW Workers Not To Vote In UAW

  • Monday, April 1, 2024

County Mayor Weston Wamp, at a Monday morning press conference with several other political leaders outside the Volkswagen plant, urged VW employees not to approve the United Auto Workers (UAW).

The Volkswagen workers are set to vote April 17-19 in the third try to unionize the plant at the Enterprise South Industrial Park.

County Mayor Wamp said, "We are not here because we are anti-union." He said local unions like the IBEW had trained many workers, but he said the UAW "is different. It's hyper-political."

He said since the last UAW try in Chattanooga that numerous UAW officials had been arrested, including for "embezzling the funds of hard-working members."

The county mayor said the UAW is "a sinking ship" with declining membership, and it was trying to make up its member losses with a campaign in the South.

A UAW win "would be the best day for the Democrats," he said, saying the union is closely allied with President Joe Biden and had received his endorsement.

County Mayor Wamp said Chattanooga and VW had prospered, providing 10,000 jobs at the former Army TNT plant at Tyner. He said that prosperity would be threatened by a victory for the UAW.

State Senator Bo Watson, who noted he helped recruit Volkswagen to Chattanooga, said "destruction and corruption" go hand in hand with the UAW.

He said, "I hope the workers of Tennessee will realize the dangers associated with the UAW. It has a dubious record" and is a threat to "Tennessee values."

County Commissioner Lee Helton said his experience included working for a boss who said he had asked to join the union, but never got a call back. He said his boss wound up starting his own construction firm, then he heard from the union, which, he said, wanted him to join and to take some of their members "who couldn't get a job anywhere else."

He said when Chattanooga was union-dominated that "it was the dirtiest place in the country, and eventually all those plants went away. Now we have a vibrant and beautiful place where everybody wants to come live."

Rep. Greg Martin said, "Tennessee is a proud right-to-work state. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the state voters voted to enshrine our right-to-work laws into the state constitution back in 2022.

"Tennessee’s strong business-friendly climate has solidified our standing as a top choice for companies and a global leader in the automotive industry. This climate has made our state one of the best states in the country in terms of business climate, job creation and attracting new investments.

"As we work to meet the workforce demands of the future, we must ensure employees in our state reserve the right to make their own choices. Unionization could restrict Volkswagen’s success and prevent further job growth in the region; thereby limiting opportunities for Chattanoogans and Tennesseans.

"Research continues to show that right-to-work states like Tennessee have higher real income growth, employment growth and population growth. Tennessee - and those who live and work across the state - have proven this to be true year after year.

"By allowing the UAW into Volkswagen, we will take the first step to ending this progress and move our state closer to what we see today in Detroit, Chicago, New York City and other progressive cities across our country.

"I believe the right choice is to keep our state’s pro-business policies and Volunteer Spirit where workers can stand on their own, make their own decisions and determine their own future — all of which help companies and citizens thrive in our state.

"This is why I strongly encourage Volkswagen employees to reject the UAW and keep the policies that have turned our community around and made Chattanooga and Hamilton County one the greatest places to live and work in the country."
Rachel Campbell, Hamilton County Democratic Party chair, said, "America’s unions have been the driving force behind building a robust middle class and have fought to improve the lives of all Americans. Labor unions helped workers achieve higher wages, safer working conditions, health benefits, workers compensation, retirement wages, and were also instrumental in ending the practice of child labor. Without labor unions, we would not have things like 40-hour work weeks, fair wage negotiations, employer-based healthcare coverage, and The Family and Medical Leave Act. Let there be no doubt that a thriving UAW would do the same.

"Today, County Mayor Wamp, State House Representatives Martin, Hazelwood, Vital, and Haynes, as well as State Senator Bo Watson all convened a press conference at the Enterprise South location, directly in front of the Volkswagen plant. During this time they took the opportunity to insert partisan politics, fear mongering, and political pressure into a situation that does not involve them, in any manner.

"The press conference called by County Mayor Weston Wamp this morning was a blatant abuse of his office and of taxpayer funds, and exhibited dangerous union busting activities in an effort to gaslight VW workers, against exercising their right to unionize.  Additionally, Mayor Wamp's use of public taxpayer funded resources to host his photo opportunity is gross misconduct that should be addressed by the Commision, and the county taxpayers. 

“We believe that workers have the right to organize, and should have the opportunity to make their own decisions about their future, their career, and the community in which they have chosen to work and live in. They should be able to do that without the Mayor’s office or the Republican delegation putting their thumb on the scale. I do not find it surprising that once again, Mayor Wamp found his way in front of a podium and the press for a photo opportunity, to spread lies and misinformation, and to do partisan political work on the taxpayers dime. Shame on him.”

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