Sen. Bob Corker reiterated his statement that workers should vote against representation by the United Auto Workers, and—if they do—company leaders will announce that the new SUV will be built in Chattanooga.
After Corker initially made that statement Wednesday, Volkswagen's CEO Frank Fischer released a statement that said there is "no connection between our Chattanooga employees’ decision about whether to be represented by a union and the decision about where to build a new product for the U.S. market.”
But Corker, who helped broker the deal to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga, said he's had conversations that make him believe that a vote against the UAW means the SUV will come to Chattanooga.
"Believe me, the decisions regarding the Volkswagen expansion are not being made by anyone in management at the Chattanooga plant, and we are also very aware Frank Fischer is having to use old talking points when he responds to press inquiries," Corker said in a statement Thursday. "After all these years and my involvement with Volkswagen, I would not have made the statement I made yesterday without being confident it was true and factual."
Corker was mayor of Chattanooga from 2001 to 2005 and worked with officials and community leaders to develop the 1,200-acre Enterprise South Industrial Park, which is now home to Volkswagen's North American manufacturing facility.
Much of the negotiation that led to Volkswagen choosing Chattanooga occurred around the dining room table of Corker’s Chattanooga home, Corker said.
CEO of Volkswagen AG Dr. Martin Winterkorn confirmed recently at the Detroit Auto Show that the auto manufacturer will make an SUV for the American market, but he didn't say where the new product would be made.
Bloomberg and Reuters recently reported that the SUV would likely be made in Chattanooga, but that has not been confirmed, and there has been a lot of speculation on this issue in recent months.
The idea that the SUV could be used as leverage to influence the union vote has come up in the past, but under different circumstances and involving different people.
Some VW employees who have organized anti-UAW efforts filed allegations with the National Labor Relations Board claiming, in part, that statements by German officials have illegally coerced workers into representation by the United Auto Workers Union.
NLRB officials have recommended those charges be dismissed, but the workers are appealing that.
Those allegations stemmed from some news outlets reporting that Bernd Osterloh, who is the Volkswagen AG General and Group Works Council chairman, mentioned the possibility of a second vehicle at the local plant, saying he knew it was important to Chattanooga and implying that workers needed to support the union if they wanted the SUV.
Some Volkswagen AG leaders want Chattanooga’s plant to be a part of its works council system. It’s currently one of the only plants out of about 100 around the world that operates outside that system.
Because the National Labor Relations Act forbids companies to have an internal union, organizing the local plant can’t be done exactly like the German model.
Volkswagen AG leaders want a works council because it would allow them to stay in touch with ideas and thoughts from Chattanooga workers and come to future deals about working conditions, Horst Neumann, VW's board member for human resources, said, according to Automotive News.