CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Some Republican lawmakers from the southeastern Tennessee county where the Volkswagen plant is located are raising questions about a $300 million incentive package for the German automaker because of the role of the United Auto Workers union within the facility.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam last summer struck the incentives deal with Volkswagen to add the production of a new SUV at the Chattanooga plant and add about 2,000 jobs.
But Republican members of the Hamilton County delegation like Rep. Mike Carter and Sens. Todd Gardenhire and Bo Watson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1wUWEeq) that a subsequent labor policy that provided for a formal role for the UAW at the plant is giving them pause.
The incentives require legislative approval, but Carter says he approaches that decision with a "jaundiced view."
Watson last year warned that incentives could be rejected by the GOP-controlled Legislature if the union won a plant-wide vote. The union ultimately lost the February vote, but has since qualified for the top tier of a new labor policy at the plant that guarantees the union regular meetings with management and access to meeting space. The policy does not include collective bargaining rights.
"At the end of the day, we'll settle on what is in the best interests of the citizens," said Watson. "Each individual legislator will take a position that best represents his district."
Gardenhire criticized VW for keeping the door open to the UAW.
"It's their way or no way. They've decided by-golly they want the UAW here," he said. "They're not listening to the community."
Volkswagen has long called state and local incentives key to the expansion, and a legislative failure to approve them would likely cause the vehicle to be built elsewhere and possibly threaten the future of existing production at the plant.
The American Council of Employees, a rival labor group lead by anti-UAW workers has so far failed to qualify under Volkswagen's labor policy. Members of that group have complained that Volkswagen has not offered a "level playing field" by favoring the UAW.
Volkswagen has VW denies a preference for any one labor group.
"If ACE wishes to utilize the ... policy to engage with the company, we welcome it and have invited them to do so," said plant spokesman Scott Wilson. "So far, they have chosen not to participate."