Press Release from the Democratic caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives, April 18, 2014:
Republicans refuse to protect taxpayers, hold Governor Haslam accountable
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On the last day of session, Republicans blocked a proposal by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner to prevent state and elected officials from using tax dollars to interfere with a lawfully organized labor election. Amendment 5 to HB1687 would have created specific criminal penalties to condition incentives for the purposes of disrupting the outcome of a legal union election.
“Republican officials claimed they have done nothing wrong and that they weren’t using taxpayer funded incentives to interfere with the Volkswagen election,” said Chairman Turner. “Yet at every turn they have sought to block open hearings, investigations, or safeguards to ensure this type of thing can’t happen.”
Since 2013, Tennessee’s House Democrats have worked to protect our state’s investment in the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant after allegations arose that Governor Haslam’s administration was attempting to block a union election using taxpayer funded economic incentives. While the Governor denied the allegations at the time, documents uncovered by News Channel 5’s Phil Williams indicate that incentives were in fact conditioned on the outcome of the election.
“Volkswagen’s culture is premised on collaboration between management and organized labor,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “The company believes this approach improves productivity and boosts employee morale. The Haslam administration issuing this kind of heavy-handed threat to the world’s second-largest car maker is shortsighted and sends a negative message to Volkswagen and to other economic development prospects.”
In an effort to determine whether federal funds were used as leverage to block the labor election, Congressmen George Miller and John Tierney on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have issued a letter to Governor Haslam requesting more information about the secret ECD offer to Volkswagen.
“The use of federal dollars warrants federal scrutiny,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville). “We are grateful to the members of Congress who have stepped up to protect taxpayer funds. Tennessee lawmakers stand ready and willing to help Congress in their efforts to protect taxpayers who don’t want their tax dollars being used to interfere in the affairs of a private company.”