Tennessee's Gop Governor Claims Volkswagen Plant Workers Erred in Union Vote

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee expressed his belief on Monday that the workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga made a mistake by choosing to unionize with the United Auto Workers in a decisive election. However, he acknowledged that the decision was ultimately theirs to make.

Before the vote, Lee and five other Republican governors from the South publicly expressed their opposition to the UAW’s efforts to organize workers in Southern factories. They argued that if autoworkers voted for union representation, it could put jobs at risk.

However, this time the union received 73% of the vote at a facility where workers had previously voted against the union in 2019 and 2014. The Volkswagen plant vote was the first one to happen after a series of strikes last fall against Detroit’s automakers. These strikes led to the automakers getting new contracts that were very profitable. In May, workers at Mercedes factories near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will have the opportunity to vote on whether they want UAW representation.

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On Monday, Lee told reporters that the Volkswagen vote was seen as a negative outcome for workers. He mentioned that the workers at his family’s business, Lee Company, are not part of a union. The company employs around 1,600 people for various projects related to homes, facilities, and construction.

“I believe it is not a good idea to rely on someone else to determine your future,” Lee said at an event in Gallatin. “However, those workers made that decision based on the specific situation at that factory.” I believe it was a mistake, but it’s their decision.

The Volkswagen victory was the first time the union had won in a Southern assembly plant owned by a foreign automaker.

President Joe Biden criticized the efforts of Lee and other Republican governors from the Southern states who are encouraging auto workers to vote against the union. The Democrat commended the achievements of unions that represent autoworkers, Hollywood actors and writers, health care workers, and others in negotiating improved contracts.

“I want to make it clear to the Republican governors who tried to undermine this vote: American workers have the right to form a union if they want to, and there is nothing to be afraid of,” Biden said in a news release on Friday.

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