Tennessee’s governor says Volkswagen workers made a mistake in the UAW union’s vote

GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee said Monday he thinks workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga made a mistake by voting in favor unions under the United Auto Workers in a landslide elections but recognized that the choice was ultimately theirs.

Before the vote, Lee and five other southern Republican governors publicly spoke out against the UAWs aim to organize workers in factories largely in the Southarguing that if autoworkers voted for union representation, this would be true endangering jobs.

Instead, the union ultimately won 73% of the vote in a facility whose workers had narrowly rejected the union in 2019 and 2014. The vote at the Volkswagen plant was the first to follow a series of strikes last fall against Detroit automakers that resulted in lucrative new contracts. Workers at Mercedes factories near Tuscaloosa, Alabamawill vote on UAW representation in May.

Lee told reporters on Monday that the Volkswagen vote was “a loss for workers.” He noted that he has a “long history of skilled workers”; employees are not unionized at the family-owned Lee Company, which employs about 1,600 people in housing, facilities and construction projects.

Stephanie Romack, a Volkswagen auto plant worker, celebrates after employees voted to join the UAW union Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)
James Robinson, a Volkswagen auto plant worker, celebrates after workers voted to join the UAW union on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

“I think it’s unwise to put your future in someone else’s hands,” Lee said at an event in Gallatin. “But those workers made that decision based on the individual circumstances of that factory. I think it was a mistake, but that’s their choice.”

Volkswagen’s victory was the union’s first win at a southern assembly plant owned by a foreign automaker.

President Joe Biden condemned the effort by Lee and other southern Republican governors to urge autoworkers to vote against the union. The Democrat praised the success of unions representing auto workers, Hollywood actors and writers, health care workers and others in securing better contracts.

“Let me be clear to the Republican governors who tried to undermine this vote: There is nothing to fear if American workers use their voice and their legal right to form a union if they choose,” Biden said in a press release Friday .

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