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Policy: Labor

Bob Corker, other Tennessee Republicans refuse subpoenas from Big Labor

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Tennessee,NLRB,Bob Corker,SEIU,Volkswagen,Chattanooga,UAW

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Thursday he will not comply with a subpoena issued by the United Auto Workers to appear at a regional National Labor Relations Board hearing April 21. Fellow Tennessee Republicans, Gov. Bill Haslam and state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, said Wednesday they will likely refuse UAW subpoenas as well.

Big Labor lawyers had sought their testimony to bolster their claim that UAW's 712-626 loss in a Feb. 14 workplace organizing election at a Chattanooga Volkswagen plant was because of the Republicans' interference. UAW wants the NLRB to void the election and order a new one.

"Everyone understands that after a clear defeat, the UAW is trying to create a sideshow, so we have filed a motion to revoke these baseless subpoenas," Todd Womack, Corker's chief of staff, told the Tennessean. "Neither Sen. Corker nor his staff will attend the hearing on Monday."

Hagerty and Haslam's respective staffs said they had not scheduled appearances before the NLRB either but did not explicitly rule it out either.

The NLRB case is highly unusual because it involves complaints against people not directly involved in an organizing election. Most NLRB cases alleging unfair practices involve allegations against management or the union.

Corker issued a statement during the election claiming -- citing unnamed inside sources -- that VW would expand production at the plant if workers rejected a union, contradicting prior indications from Volkswagen management. UAW claimed those comments "tainted" the election.

The union further alleges that Haslam's administration telling Volkswagen that the company would jeopardize its eligibility for $300 million in state aid if it allowed a union also improperly influenced the vote.

It would be a hard case to make that the incentives would have undermined those labor rights, though, since Volkswagen tacitly backed the UAW's effort to unionize the plant anyway. The existence of Haslam's aid package was not publicly known until after the vote, so it could not have influenced the workers' ballots.

There were other reasons why workers might have rejected the union. UAW leaders had signed a pre-election "neutrality agreement" with Volkswagen management that any future contract would not damage the plant's "cost advantages and other competitive advantages." Many workers reportedly took this as a sign that the union would not strongly represent them.

Ironically, the UAW had initially opposed allowing the plant's workers to have a secret ballot election on unionizing, insisting instead that Volkswagen recognize its claim that it got a majority of workers to back the union through the Card Check process.

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner