CHATTANOOGA, TENN. — UAW leaders on Friday said they will review all of their legal options and consider challenging the results of a devastating defeat in an election for union representation at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga.
Workers at the German automakers plant voted against the UAW in a three-day election that ended Friday in a margin of 712-626.
UAW President Bob King sharply criticized Tennessee politicians who he said scared workers away from voting in favor of union representation. Going into the election, the UAW thought it had support from a majority of the more than 1,500 workers who had an opportunity to vote.
That support began to decline in recent days, mostly because of news conferences held by the state's political leaders who warned that a vote in favor of the UAW would make the state less attractive to other manufacturers and could jeopardize Volkswagen's plans to expand its factory there.
"We also are outraged by the outside interference in this election. It's never happened before that a U.S. senator, a governor and a leader of the House of Representatives threatened the company and threatened the workers" during a union election, King said Friday night shortly after the votes.
The election at the Chattanooga plant was the best opportunity the UAW has had in years to organize an assembly plant in the South owned by a German or Asian automaker, and the loss is widely viewed as a major setback for the union's organizing strategy in the South.
King tried to downplay the significance.
"I think it's a temporary setback," King said.
Dennis Williams, who is secretary-treasurer of the UAW and the union's nominee for president, said sometimes it takes more than one try to successfully organize a company.
"We're not leaving Chattanooga," said Williams, who likely will be elected to a four-year term as president in June. "It took seven years to organize Ford, and I will be around for at least another five."