While saying he was “really glad” to see the United Auto Workers appeal of a union vote at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant dropped Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam had few details about the German automakers’ long suggested expansion that could mean thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in state incentives.
“[Volkswagen has] not come back to us and said for sure we want to build a car there, so anything else is just speculation at this time,” said the governor after an event in Columbia promoting a healthy Tennessee. “We are welcoming the chance to sit back down with Volkswagen, and I have actually thought, and I have said before, that the [National Labor Relations Board appeal] was delaying things.”
The UAW had planned an appeal before a NLRB hearing Monday stemming from its contention that top Tennessee officials, including the governor, interfered with the unsuccessful election earlier this year to unionize the Chattanooga plant.
Haslam, along with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and other lawmakers, say they were exercising their opinion that a unionized VW would hurt the potential expansion, but reports have surfaced in recent weeks that the Haslam administration offered Volkswagen $300 million in incentives to produce a new vehicle at the Chattanooga plant that was tied to the outcome of the union vote.
On another front of the same issue, the governor downplayed recent word of a congressional inquiry into the matter.
“We got a letter from two Democratic congressmen who are minority members of the House,” the governor said with a shrug. “It is two members of a committee who said they would like more information. We will play that as it comes.”
Mr. Haslam was non-committal about calling the legislature back into session if an eventual package of VW incentives needed approval.
“We have not sat down and talked with Volkswagen, so I don’t know A) if we can get a deal or B) what the deal would be or C) would that necessitate having the legislature come back,” he said.
Haslam said he’s had the same concerns “he’s made clear all along” about VW and it was not directly about a union there.
He indicated concerns about a union came from auto suppliers needed near the plant who said that if unionization happens they wouldn’t come. Haslam said, “That was at the root of our concern.”
When asked when he last spoke with top VW officials, the governor said he believed it was in January.
Haslam said he was waiting to speak “with someone who could speak with finality for the company.”
- Feb. 21, 2014: UAW appeals Volkswagen workers’ rejection in Tenn.
- Feb. 14, 2014: Volkswagen workers at Tennessee plant reject union
- Feb. 12, 2014: Sen. Corker ups ante in VW workers vote