Tenn. leaders downplay union debate at VW plant

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 15, 2014 at 6:40 pm •  Published: July 15, 2014
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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee leaders downplayed the often public wrangling over organized labor's role at Volkswagen's Chattanooga factory on Tuesday, focusing on the company's recent announcement that it would add a new line there to produce a seven-passenger SUV.

Volkswagen on Monday announced the expansion, which is expected to cost $600 million and add about 2,000 new factory jobs at the Chattanooga site. About 2,400 employees work at the factory now, making the Passat midsize car. The company also plans to add a research and development facility, employing about 200 engineers.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said the terms of the deal came together about five weeks ago, prior to what UAW leaders have called a "consensus" with Volkswagen.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said last week he is confident VW will recognize the union if it signs up a "meaningful portion" of Volkswagen's workforce in Chattanooga, though he did not elaborate on what the threshold would be.

State and local leaders celebrating the expansion at a downtown event Tuesday afternoon said the investment demonstrates Volkswagen's commitment to the region.

"There are cities and communities all over the country that would love to be sitting where Chattanooga is sitting today," Haslam said.

The role of organized labor at the factory caused months of political debate in Tennessee, centered on an employee vote on joining the United Auto Workers Union. Republican federal and state lawmakers had warned that Volkswagen would expand elsewhere if employees approved, and said a $300 million state incentive package couldn't get legislative support if the union was involved. That package has since expired.

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