Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has blasted the United Auto Workers for attempting to "muzzle" elected officials by fighting to overturn a vote at a Volkswagen plant that rejected having the union represent the workforce.
In a Wall Street Journal
opinion piece, the Republican senator said that if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) upholds the allegations by the UAW that "outside forces" had unfairly influenced workers to vote against a union then "it would be an unprecedented assault on free speech."
Last month, 53 percent of the workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., voted down union representation, even though the UAW had spent two years inside the plant working to organize it, Corker said.
"I believe that the workers understood that they were nothing more than dollar signs for the UAW," he wrote. "Obviously, I could not have been happier for the Volkswagen employees, for the community, and for Tennessee."
But the UAW has since filed an appeal with the U.S. government, asking for the election to be set aside, citing what the union called "interference by politicians and outside special interest groups."
is set to investigate the vote to decide whether there are grounds to scrap the election and hold a new one.
Corker, who grew up in Chattanooga, said the UAW has charged that "elected officials like me should not be allowed to make public comments expressing our opinion and sharing information with our constituents."
He added, "My belief [is] that part of my job is to speak out on issues important to my state. I joined community leaders and a number of employees in Chattanooga this winter to ensure that VW workers who would be making this important decision had a broader point of view than they were getting inside the plant from UAW operatives."
The senator also noted that the UAW complaint failed to mention the fact that President Barack Obama had urged the employees to vote for the union.
"The stakes are high," Corker wrote. "The UAW has publicly stated that its very survival depends on organizing foreign auto manufacturers. Mr. Obama raised the ante when he weighed in on behalf of the union during the voting period.
"The NLRB soon will have to decide whether to follow years of precedent and let the vote of the workers stand, or whether it will try to muzzle elected officials and prevent them from weighing in on issues of critical importance to the communities they represent, possibly because the members of the NLRB did not like the outcome of a vote by workers."
But Corker said the vote should stand because the NLRB has ruled repeatedly that "public officials have the right to make statements taking sides in a union election, and that those statements do not justify overturning the outcome of that election."
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