Gov. Bill Haslam and other top state officials have asked the National Labor Relations Board to revoke subpoenas by the United Auto Workers union in advance of a labor hearing in Chattanooga next week.
The UAW had sought to compel them to testify as part of the union's challenge of the February election results at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.
State Attorney General Bob Cooper's office filed the petition Thursday afternoon calling for the subpoenas to be voided, and also asked the NLRB to delay the hearing until the subpoena issue could be resolved.
In the petition, Cooper argues that "the subpoenas are overly broad, unduly burdensome and seek information that is not relevant or material to the matter under investigation or in question in the proceedings."
The UAW has charged that Haslam and other key Republican officials interfered in the Volkswagen union election, coercing the workers into rejecting representation. The workers voted 712-626 on Feb. 12-14 against joining the UAW, and the union subsequently filed an objection with the NLRB seeking to overturn the results and get a new vote.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also has been subpoenaed in the case, and has said he does not plan to attend the hearing. His legal staff is working on its own response to the subpoena, his office said.
Besides Haslam, state officials who were served with subpoenas, and who were listed in the attorney general's petition were:
- Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty;
- Hagerty's chief of staff, Will Alexander;
- Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson;
- Tres Wittum, executive assistant to Watson;
- State Sen. Todd Gardenhire,Speaker of the House Beth Harwell;
- State representative and Majority Leader Gerald McCormick;
- State Rep. Mike Carter;
- State Rep. Richard Floyd.
"The union's subpoenas … serve only to harass the petitioners and their various office staff; compliance would most certainly disrupt state operations. The scope and breadth of the subpoenas, the identity and official capacity of the petitioners who have been served, and the en masse issuing of the subpoenas … are far beyond what is necessary or appropriate," the petition argues.
And, it adds, "If the subpoenas are not revoked, the union will be permitted to use the NLRB's procedures to subject Tennessee government officials to an abuse of process which will chill legitimate public debate, effectively silence any opposing views, and distract the NLRB from the fact that the union lost an election it controlled in virtually every facet, except the result."
Corker's office said that the senator, a former Chattanooga mayor, had no intention to go to the hearing. The UAW claims that Corker and the state officials, along with other "outsiders," conspired to influence the outcome of the election.
"Everyone understands that after a clear defeat, the UAW is trying to create a sideshow, so we have filed a motion to revoke these baseless subpoenas," said Todd Womack, Corker's chief of staff. "Neither Sen. Corker nor his staff will attend the hearing on Monday."