Congress Opens Inquiry Into Haslam Administration's $300M Offer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Two House Democrats announced Wednesday that they have opened an inquiry into the confidential $300 million offer that the Haslam administration made to Volkswagen that appeared to have hinged on VW's talks with the United Auto Workers.
Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and John Tierney (D-Mass.), ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee, sent a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam seeking more information about whether any Tennessee state officials conditioned, or threatened to condition, state aid to Volkswagen on the outcome of workers' efforts to establish a union and/or a works council at the Chattanooga plant, a news release said.
"The workers trying to organize at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga saw their fundamental labor rights attacked from the get-go," said Miller and Tierney. "Both before and during the vote on whether or not to unionize, third parties made public comments that were clearly meant to sabotage a fair election.
"Recent reports suggest that the interference on the part of state officials may be even more troubling than we originally thought," Miller and Tierney continued. "In order to explore the extent and consequences of the interference, we are requesting that the state turn over its communications, both internally and with Volkswagen or other third parties, regarding conditions placed on the provision of state aid for the Chattanooga plant. This documentation may help us better understand the extent to which the actions of state officials interfered with workers' federally guaranteed rights."
In addition, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), a member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, commented: "I'm deeply troubled by recent reports that Tennessee state officials may have placed conditions on the provision of state aid for the Chattanooga plant to ensure the workers at the plant didn't form a works council. If true, this is interference in the process and may represent a violation of workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act."
While the governor had denied that money was being offered to Volkswagen to help it expand -- in exchange for workers rejecting the UAW's efforts to form a workers' council at the plant --NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained documents with the details of that confidential offer.
Under the proposal, Volkswagen would get $300 million dollars in incentives for creating 1, 350 new jobs.
But the incentives were "subject to works council discussions ... being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee."
A Haslam administration spokesperson said the governor's office had no comment.