The United Auto Workers union announced plans Thursday to open a local chapter aimed at attracting workers from Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant. The announcement is already generating polarized opinions reminiscent of the initial debate over union involvement at VW.
The planned local chapter has no official connection to Volkswagen itself. Workers will be allowed to join, the union said, but will not have to pay any dues until after the group is officially recognized. Whether Volkswagen officials will do so is unknown. The company issued a statement reiterating the unofficial nature of the UAW chapter.
The union's decision is but the latest chapter in a contentious debate over union involvement at Southern auto plants. UAW tried to win official blessing to establish a European-style works council at the Hamilton County plant this past winter. In a February vote, VW workers declined that option. Union opponents, including U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Governor Bill Haslam, hailed the UAW defeat as a victory for workers and the auto industry in Tennessee. UAW initially appealed the results, citing political interference, but that appeal was dropped.
News of Thursday's announcement provoked similarly of strong opinions. State House Democratic leader Mike Turner applauded the UAW move as beneficial to the state. But the libertarian Beacon Center called the decision "extremely disappointing."