UAW President: Sen. Bob Corker 'Intimidated' Volkswagen Workers to Reject Union
On Monday, UAW President Bob King, embittered at his union's 712 to 626 loss in Friday's election among workers at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, blamed Tennessee Republican politicians for the stinging defeat. King told MSNBC's Ed Schultz, "Sen. [Bob] Corker [R-TN] entered into the fray just to intimidate workers."
King told the Times Free Press, "The union is still evaluating its legal options." Those options could include filing legal challenges with the National Labor Relations Board. By law, the NLRB is required to certify the outcome of the vote within seven days of Friday's election.
The NLRB, which is now controlled by Obama administration appointees, has made several controversial anti-business rulings over the past several years, including a decision to sue Boeing for locating a new plant in South Carolina. The NLRB dropped that suit, which it had initiated with union support, in December 2011, after the union and Boeing struck a deal that raised wages for workers.
Joseph Farelli, an attorney who specializes in labor law and a partner at the New York City based firm of Pitta & Giblin, told Breitbart News on Tuesday he did not think a UAW challenge to the NLRB certification of the vote would succeed. Farelli told Breitbart News, "I don't think the NLRB is willing to break new ground and state the conduct of a third party is sufficient to void the outcome of the election."
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that the UAW's King stated: "Corker's intimidation and (Gov. Bill) Haslam and the others threatening to take away incentives for the company (if workers joined the union), that really hurt workers and hurt us. I think that had a huge impact (on the election)."
On February 12, the first day of the three days of balloting, "Corker said a vote against the UAW would guarantee that Volkswagen would assemble a new seven-passenger crossover vehicle in Chattanooga," according to Bloomberg News.
King claimed that prior to Corker's statement, "[o]bviously, we [the UAW] had a majority."
Other UAW union leaders joined the chorus claiming intimidation. "Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee," said UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel. "The UAW Chattanooga is here to stay," said Mike Herron, a UAW official at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Herron added, "I pray that the Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga will remain vigilant and eventually get the workplace democracy that many of them desire and free from the threats, intimidation and misinformation of their senator."
Leaders of other national unions weighed in as well. Richard Trumka, head of the powerful AFL-CIO, said, "[t]he closeness of the results and the courage and tenacity of union supporters prove that this election is a minor setback, and not a permanent defeat." Trumka claimed, "[t]he ferocity of the anti-union forces only reinforces the fact that there is a powerful new form of organizing emerging."
King added that "attorneys are evaluating whether any rules were broken by Corker and other state Republicans when they said that Volkswagen was more likely to expand and Tennessee would grant the German auto maker more incentives if the workers rejected UAW representation."
Labor attorney Farelli told Breitbart News, "If you are going to challenge the outcome, they supposedly had an agreement with Volkswagen in which neither side would bad mouth the other. There's only a couple of grounds they could use to challenge it."
"I think they have an uphill battle because normally there are 'laboratory conditions' neither the union nor the employer can make incendiary comments. Volkswagen didn't make those type comments. The union," Farelli said, "would have to show the employer made those comments violating those 'laboratory conditions.' "
"The law doesn't cover outside groups," Farelli noted. "They would have to show Volkswagen was coordinating efforts with the outside groups."
Farelli explained the standard that the NLRB should use to evaluate any potential legal challenge to the NLRB's certification of the vote. "If Corker said 'if you vote against the union, Volkswagen will be able to build another car here,' if an employer or employer's agent said that you might have a case," he said. "But Bob Corker is not an agent of the employer."
If legal experts like Joseph Farelli are correct and the rule of law still stands in the United States, the NLRB would dismiss any likely UAW challenge to the election certification. It remains unclear, however, what, if any, legal challenges the UAW may make to Friday's vote and how the NLRB will rule on those challenges, if they are made.