On February 14, 2014, Volkswagen and UAW were set to join forces in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This would have been a historical event for the South because both the company and the workers wanted this to happen. Outside forces from third party right-wing groups and elected Tennessee Republicans, such as Senator Bob Corker and Governor Haslam, interfered and cost this election. The election is on appeal with the NLRB and is scheduled for April 21st in Chattanooga.
News 5 in Nashville obtained these documents: Haslam administration linked $300 million to VW-UAW process
Were hundreds of millions of your tax dollars offered to Volkswagen -- and then pulled back -- to try to keep the United Auto Workers out of Chattanooga?Throughout the election, Governor Haslam denied involvement in the VW/UAW but this document shows the role that Haslam played in trying to get rid of UAW. It also states that Corker's Chief of Staff was in direct involvement with anti-union forces.
For months, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has denied any connection.
But documents leaked to NewsChannel 5 Investigates offer conclusive proof that the Haslam administration wanted a say in the automaker's deal with organized labor -- in exchange for $300 million in economic incentives to help VW expand its Chattanooga operations.
News Channel 5 obtained a confidential report called Project Trinity. In it Haslam gives away millions of taxpayer dollars, if VW does not go with UAW:
Marked confidential, it offers Volkswagen incentives of some $300 million -- in exchange for 1,350 full-time jobs at a new SUV facility.Senator Bob Corker was aware of the incentives in the State and told News 5 earlier this year:
"The incentives … are subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee."
In fact, during an interview with Fox News in February, U.S. Senator Bob Corker had also hinted that he knew those incentives had become a subject of concern for the Haslam administration.Gary Casteel, UAW official, told the reporter:
"I know you know the state has concerns about any kind of incentives in the event the company -- and I'm not part of that. That's a separate government, as you know. But they have concerns about the UAW," Corker said.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates recently asked Corker, "Did you know that the Haslam administration had taken incentives off the table while the vote was pending?"
"I was aware," the senator replied, "that there were some concerns about incentives being on the table while the vote was taking place."
"I think since this document is public, and I appreciate you bringing it forward, that it's obvious that the state was threatening or at least intimidating Volkswagen [that], to get the incentives, they had to change their business model," he said.During the run-up to the election, Senator Corker said VW would expand with an SUV line if UAW were not in Chattanooga. This turned out to be false. State Senator Bo Watson told workers that if VW went with UAW, they would lose taxpayer incentives. All this scared workers into believing VW would shut down, if they went with UAW. What happened was the opposite: VW and UAW appealed the decision to NLRB, there is no SUV expansion in Chattanooga and Works Council leader, Berndt Osterloh, said they are probably not going to do any more expansion in the South.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Casteel, "Is this incentive document a game changer?"
"To me," he answered, "it puts pressure on the state to do what they should have done in the first place -- and that's give the incentives with no strings attached, just like they would any other company, union or non-union."
"I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again," said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's works council.
"If co-determination isn't guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor" of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW's supervisory board, said.