April 21, 2014

UAW Gives Up on VW-Chattanooga Appeal; AP Pretends Dem Congressmen Can ‘Investigate’ Election

Earlier today, just an hour before a hearing was to begin at the National Labor Relations Board, the United Auto Workers union dropped an appeal of the election it lost in February as it attempted to become the bargaining representative for workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant.

In a writeup which appears at the Associated Press’s “Big Story” but which somehow failed to appear in a 6 p.m. search on “UAW” at the Big Story site (sorted by date), reporter Erik Schelzig pretended that two Democratic Congressmen who last week started an “inquiry” into the circumstances surrounding the union’s loss will be conducting a “congressional investigation.” No they won’t, because they can’t, because their party is in the minority. What they can do is conduct a theatrical exercise which looks like a “hearing” which has no power and which a responsible AP reporter wouldn’t call a “congressional investigation.” Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):

UAW DROPS APPEAL OF DEFEAT IN VOLKSWAGEN VOTE

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The United Auto Workers dropped its appeal of a worker vote against unionizing at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, a move that the union said should put pressure on Republican politicians to quickly approve incentives the German automaker is seeking to expand its lone U.S. assembly plant.

The prolonged fight over labor issues at the Chattanooga facility appeared headed for a lengthy National Labor Relations Board appeal until the UAW announced an hour before a scheduled hearing that it was ending its challenge. The February vote went against the union 712-626.

Some GOP lawmakers had blamed the appeal for holding up expansion plans at the plant — and the UAW says that perceived obstacle is now out of the way.

“Now they need to step up and do what’s right for VW and those workers over there, get the incentives without any strings attached,” UAW Regional Director Gary Casteel said in a phone interview.

The appeal had focused on public statements from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other GOP officials that the union argued raised fears among workers about the plant’s future if they voted to organize.

Union supporters also chafed at revelations that a previous $300 million incentive package from Tennessee had been made contingent on the labor situation there concluding to the satisfaction of the state, where anti-UAW Republicans hold a vast majority.

The UAW says it will now focus on a congressional investigation launched by two House Democrats into the anti-unionization campaign, though it’s unclear what that probe will achieve unless it is also taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Volkswagen wants to introduce a German-style works council at the plant to represent both salaried and blue-collar workers, but the company’s interpretation of U.S. law has been that it can’t do so without the involvement of an independent union. (Note: Far more crucially, that’s the NLRB’s interpretation. — Ed.)

The company issued a statement welcoming the UAW decision as “an important gesture for a constructive dialogue in Chattanooga.” Volkswagen said it will continue to pursue its efforts to establish “a new, innovative form of co-determination in the USA.”

What Democrats George Miller of California and John Tierney of Massachusetts will be holding, assuming they don’t shelve their plans as a result of the UAW’s surrender, will not be a “congressional investigation.”

A separate April 16 AP story by Tom Raum describes their effort as an “inquiry.” That’s an improvement, but not by much. All the pair have done is send a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Haslam is under no compulsion to respond. Given that he refused to appear before the NLRB if the hearing had gone forward, it’s not unreasonable to believe that he won’t respond to Miller and Tierney.

If the two Democrats conduct any kind of meeting, it will be an exercise outside of official chambers dressed up to look like an investigation which will mean nothing. They will have no power to call witnesses, though union leaders and progressive loudmouths will probably gladly participate.

If Democrats thought they had a realistic chance of making hay with their charges that Corker and Haslam “rigged” the election by exercising their free-speech rights, they have the power to hold hearings in the Senate, where they hold a majority. Since that’s not on track to happen, it would appear that even the hyperpartisan Harry Reid recognizes that it’s a lost cause.

But the AP’s Schelzig clearly wants to make readers believe that it’s not.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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