Tennessee's junior Senator and the mayor of Chattanooga appear eager to put a labor dispute behind them and resume a bid to enlarge Hamilton County's Volkswagen plant.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke issued statements within hours of Monday's announcement that the United Auto Workers union withdrew its labor complaint against state and federal officials over alleged political interference in a February union vote. UAW said Corker, along with Gov. Bill Haslam and others, inappropriately meddled to sway the Volkswagen vote against the union.
Monday afternoon, Berke called on Gov. Haslam to immediately re-offer a $300-million tax incentives package designed to entice Volkswagen officials to select the Chattanooga plant to produce a new line of SUVs. The offer was taken off the table in January, before the union vote, but later became the center of a controversy over whether the Haslam administration dangled the tax incentives as a threat to Volkswagen if workers had approve working with UAW. Berke said a package of city incentives remains available to the German automaker as well.
Sen. Corker, traveling in Moldova, issued a statement that read in part: "It's a shame the UAW slowed the momentum on our expansion conversations with Volkswagen, but now it's time for VW, our state and our community to re-engage and move forward with bringing additional jobs to Chattanooga."
In February, Corker strongly indicated that rejecting unionization would lead to Volkswagen announcing the selection of the Chattanooga plant to produce a new SUV. That announcement never came. A company official said last week the decision will likely be made by the end of the year. Chattanooga has been mentioned as a front-runner.