Last week, on the eve of a long awaited representation election in Chattanooga, Tenn., Sen. Bob Corker made the outrageous statement that if workers voted "no," Volkswagen would add a new product to the plant. Even though the plant manager denied this, Corker persisted. Given the role of the Volkswagen board of supervisors in managing the global corporation, and the 50 percent membership of union members on that board, it is virtually certain Corker isn't telling the truth. It is also virtually certain that his campaigning for a no vote made a difference in the very close election against union representation.
Corker's comments were compounded by the Tennessee governor and legislative leaders stating that if workers voted to join every other Volkswagen assembly plant in the world with a union, the state would not provide any additional benefits for expanded jobs and production. All of this was amplified by a campaign funded by Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers.
Never before in the 79-year-old history of the National Labor Relations Act has there been this type of blatant interference by elected officials. The stated goal of the act is to promote collective bargaining, not intimidation by government officials.
The facts get even worse for Corker. Four years ago he campaigned against President Obama's efforts to revive General Motors, despite the fact that the plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., would close otherwise. Today there are 2,000 jobs there, and the plant is booming.
Volkswagen is currently, by most measures, one of the most effective car companies in the world. Worker participation at all levels, including collective bargaining, is a critical component, even at the plant in Mexico. Yet Corker seems to think he knows best and that his right wing ideology is much more important than the facts, or federal law.
Civil rights and human rights groups, democracy groups, and progressive labor all need to rally against Corker and his allies and on behalf of the courageous leaders of the UAW in the Chattanooga plant. Those workers live in a state where they will now be under pressure every day. Just as 80,000 rallied in Raleigh last week demanding voting rights, and as students and workers across Wisconsin turned out in the winter of 2011 against the extremism of Gov. Scott Walker, all of us need to stand with the workers in Chattanooga, the UAW, their German partners in IG Metall, and even Volkswagen management itself, in letting Corker and his allies know that his extremism will be met by all of us who are all ready to Stand Up and Fight Back!