The loss, 712 to 626, capped a sprint finish to a long race and
was particularly surprising for UAW supporters, because Volkswagen
had allowed the union access to the factory and officially stayed
neutral on the vote, while other manufacturers have been hostile to
UAW spent more than two years organizing and then called a snap
election in an agreement with VW. German union IG Metall worked with
the UAW to pressure VW to open its doors to organizers, but
anti-union forces dropped a bombshell after the first of three days
Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga
who helped win the VW plant, said on Wednesday after the first day
of voting that VW would expand the factory if the union was
"Needless to say, I am thrilled," Corker said in a statement after
the results were disclosed.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix hailed the
outcome: "If UAW union officials cannot win when the odds are so
stacked in their favor, perhaps they should re-evaluate the product
they are selling to workers."
An announcement of whether a new seven-passenger crossover vehicle
will be produced in Chattanooga or in Mexico could come as early as
next week, VW sources told Reuters.
Despite the indignation of pro-union forces, legal experts earlier
had said that any challenge of the outcome, based on Corker's
comments, would be difficult, given broad free speech protection for
The UAW said it would "evaluate" the conduct in the vote, where 89
percent of eligible workers cast ballots.
"We are outraged at the outside interference in this election. It's
never happened in this country before that a U.S. senator, a
governor, a leader of the house, a leader of the legislature here
threatened the company with those incentives, threatened workers
with the loss of product," Bob King, the UAW president who has
staked his legacy on expanding into the south, said.
UAW membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979 and now stands at
just under 400,000.
The Tennessee decision is likely to reinforce the widely held notion
that the UAW cannot make significant inroads in a region that
historically has been steadfastly against organized labor and where
all foreign-owned vehicle assembly plants employ nonunion workers.
Before the results were announced, King had said in an interview
with Reuters that his group and the German union were already at
work organizing a Daimler AG factory in Alabama.
"We will continue our efforts at Daimler. It's not new. We're there.
We have a campaign. We have a plan. We are also very involved
globally with Nissan, so that will continue," he said. He did not
mention the other plants when speaking to reporters late in the
[to top of second column]
Dennis Cuneo, a partner at Fisher & Phillips, a national
labor law firm that represents management, said earlier in the day
that a loss would be a big setback for the union movement in the
South, showing the UAW was unable to convince rank-and-file workers
even with management's cooperation.
Such a loss "makes the UAW's quest to organize southern auto plants
all the more difficult," he said.
Local anti-union organizers had protested the UAW from the start,
reflecting deep concerns among many workers that a union would
strain cordial relations with the company, which pays well by local
and U.S. auto industry standards.
Mike Burton, one of the anti-union leaders, cheered the results.
"Not on our watch," he exulted, adding, as did VW management, that
plans to find a way for a workers council to help set rules for the
factory would continue.
Many labor experts have said that a workers council, which is used
in Germany, would not be possible at a U.S. VW factory without a
"We felt like we were already being treated very well by Volkswagen
in terms of pay and benefits and bonuses," said Sean Moss, who voted
against the UAW. "We also looked at the track record of the UAW. Why
buy a ticket on the Titanic?" he added.
Many workers believed that the union had hurt operations at plants
run by General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler, now a part of
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he said
For VW, the stakes also were high. The German automaker invested $1
billion in the Chattanooga plant, which began building Passat
mid-size sedans in April 2011, after being awarded more than $577
million in state and local incentives.
VW executives have said the new crossover vehicle, due in 2016 and
known internally as CrossBlue, could be built at either the
Chattanooga plant or in Mexico, but Tennessee facility was built
with the expectation of a second vehicle line.
The vote has received global attention, and even President Barack
Obama waded into the discussion early on Friday, accusing Republican
politicians of being more concerned about German shareholders than
The vote must be certified by the National Labor Relations Board.
(Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Andreas Cremer
in Berlin; editing by Matthew Lewis, Ross Colvin and Ken Wills)
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