With UAW's appeal withdrawn, what's next for the Chattanooga VW plant?
A months-long controversy between the United Auto Workers union, Volkswagen, and state politicians could finally be put to rest.
Monday, April 21st 2014, 6:22 PM EDT
A months-long controversy between the United Auto Workers union, Volkswagen, and state politicians could finally be put to rest. Just hours before a hearing to discuss the February vote at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant, the UAW withdrew objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Earlier this year, VW employees rejected union representation by a 712 to 626 vote. The UAW claimed the vote was tainted by political inference. Several attorneys flew in to Chattanooga from all over for Monday's hearing, only to learn it would not happen.
"For the employees here in Chattanooga, they can have a sigh of relief and call it a victory that their free choice was affirmed today," said Glenn Taubman, an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
UAW President Bob King said in a statement, the process of objecting to the NLRB could have dragged on for months, if not years. Once the vote has been certified, the NLRB prohibits any union activity in a plant for one year.
Now the attention turns to the future of the plant. A spokesperson for Chattanooga's VW plant tells Channel 3, "It is now time for all concerned to shape the future of the Chattanooga location." The message is echoed by local leaders, saying the goal now is to secure a new production line and bring more jobs to the area.
"A small cheer went up here and we said, 'Good. Let's create some more jobs. Let's go. Let's do something positive," said Ron Harr, President and CEO of The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
Harr says UAW decision to no longer fight the anti-union results came as an unexpected, but welcomed surprise.
"We think that having this go away from the dialogue in our community is a positive thing," said Harr.
Harr says UAW's battle over the plant hindered progress.
"The way that they had challenged the election did create a big community question and it stalled a lot of different discussions. Because people didn't know what to expect."
He says now the focus turns to expansion.
"We hope the next announcement is going to be that Volkswagen is building another product here and adding more jobs."
He says his guess is as good as anyone's on when that announcement may come.
"It's impossible, I guess, for any of us to know what the timetable might be. The company has obviously, a thousand different decisions points about a very big decision like making a new product. But we've been hearing for a long long time in Chattanooga that we're the place to do that," said Harr.
In the meantime, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is asking the state to reconsider a $300 million incentive package and "put the state's prior incentives offer back on the table to bring the SUV jobs to Southeast Tennessee." He went to say, "We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and watch this opportunity go elsewhere."
"We think we have a tremendous opportunity, not just for Volkswagen, but for their suppliers and suppliers to the other manufacturers around the Southeast as well," said Harr.
The governor's office has not released details on its next step.
Harr says local leaders are still doing leg work to bring in jobs. He says this week alone, the chamber is meeting with four different manufacturers, looking to build automotive supply facilities in Chattanooga.