Norquist Group Leads Anti-Union Fight at Tenn. VW Plant

Image: Norquist Group Leads Anti-Union Fight at Tenn. VW Plant Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Friday, 07 Feb 2014 09:11 AM

By Courtney Coren

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A group backed by Grover Norquist has set up billboards in Chattanooga, Tenn., as the United Auto Workers gets ready to hold a vote on unionizing workers at a local Volkswagen plant.

The Center for Worker Freedom, an offshoot of Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, has rented 13 billboards warning workers against voting for the union. The election is set for Feb. 12-14 and will be supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, the Detroit Free Press reported.

One billboard reads, "United Auto Workers," but with the word "Auto" crossed out and replaced with "Obama," and followed up with a statement saying that "The UAW spends millions to elect liberal politicians, including Barack Obama."

Another one cites a Reuters article and says that "almost every job lost at U.S. car factories in the last 30 years has occurred at a unionized company."

According to The Wall Street Journal, the group also has radio ads booked on local stations.

"We just want the citizens of Chattanooga to be aware of what the UAW's history is," Matt Patterson, the center's executive director, told The Journal. "There is no question they contributed to the bankruptcy of General Motors and to the general decline of the American auto industry. The community should know that before this vote."

The group has not said how much it is spending on the ad campaign before the 1,500 Volkswagen plant workers cast their vote next week.

The National Right to Work Committee is giving legal help to workers who oppose the UAW.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker, both Republicans, have come out against both the effort by the union as well as Volkswagen's assistance in the effort.

While Volkswagen has said it's remaining neutral on the matter, the company allowed UAW official Gary Casteel to make a pitch to workers at a meeting Tuesday morning, but have not allowed anti-union groups access to the plant.

"Allowing the UAW to speak directly to employees and not allowing a competing group to present its view — that's not remaining neutral," said Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga labor lawyer.

Frank Fischer, chief executive officer of the Chattanooga plant, announced in September that it was beginning talks with UAW about the possibility of unionizing.

"In the U.S., a works council can only be realized together with a trade union," Fischer wrote in a letter. "This is the reason why Volkswagen has started a dialogue with the UAW in order to check the possibility of implementing an innovative model of employee representation for all employees."

The Journal notes that the UAW has yet to organize any of the auto plants in the southern states. The union managed to organize a vote at a Nissan Motor Co. plant in Smyrna, Tennessee in 2001, but lost 2-1.

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