UAW Withdraws Challenge To Volkswagen Union Election

The United Auto Workers union announced Monday that it withdrew its challenge to the closely watched Volkswagen union election that took place in Tennessee in February, ending a months-long saga in which the union charged that Republican lawmakers unfairly swayed the results.

The union said in a statement that the decision was made "in the best interests" of the plant's employees, Volkswagen and the Chattanooga, Tenn., community. Bob King, the union's president, said he didn't want a long and drawn-out legal mess, alluding to the "historically dysfunctional and complex process" of such a challenge.

King also cited the fact that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) and Sen. Bob Corker (R) had resisted subpoenas from the UAW that sought to compel them to testify. Haslam's lawyers filed a petition to have his subpoena voided, and Corker simply said he had no intention of going to the hearing.

The union alleged that both lawmakers, among others, had pressured workers at the plant not to join the union, thereby tainting the final vote. The UAW narrowly lost the election, 712 to 626, in what had been one of the most closely watched union elections in decades due to its implications for foreign automakers in the U.S. and the right-to-work South.

If successful, the union's petition would have essentially granted a do-over election. A hearing was set to begin Monday.

“The UAW is ready to put February’s tainted election in the rearview mirror and instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga," King said in the statement.

The withdrawal of the petition quickly ends a legal fight that the UAW would have had a hard time winning -- and that served to draw attention to one of organized labor's more painful losses in recent years. Even if the union managed to prove that Corker and others had spoiled the vote, it would have then had to win an election it had just lost.

King, however, said the union had accomplished a "major goal" with its challenge: "inform[ing] the public about the unprecedented interference by anti-labor politicians and third parties."

Because of its significance, the Volkswagen election drew unusual meddling from outside groups who weren't parties in the election, including an anti-union group headed by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, which plastered billboards throughout Chattanooga urging workers to vote down the UAW.

Perhaps most controversially, Corker said as the election got underway that he'd been guaranteed the plant would get a new assembly line if it remained union-free. "I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga," Corker said.

That announcement is yet to come.