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UAW asks to delay Volkswagen hearing, cites anti-union collusion

A general view of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga,Tennessee February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry
A general view of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga,Tennessee February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry

By Amanda Becker and Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) - The United Auto Workers (UAW) on Tuesday asked a U.S. agency to stay an April 21 hearing related to a mid-February union vote it lost at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, citing what it called new evidence of collusion between Republican lawmakers and anti-union groups.

The union was referring to a report aired on Nashville's NewsChannel5 late on Monday that cited email exchanges between anti-union groups, members of the staffs of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker and other public officials.

According to the broadcast, the correspondence showed that Haslam's administration offered $300 million in economic incentives to help VW expand its operations in Chattanooga so long as the plant did not unionize.

The parties also discussed anti-UAW messaging strategies in the days leading up to the union vote, according to the report.

The UAW told the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in its filing on Tuesday that the news report was further evidence that outside groups were working on behalf of politicians who oppose organized labor.

Tennessee Democrats called for a full investigation of the Volkswagen financial incentives initiative, called "Project Trinity", and questioned why the documents in the broadcast had not been produced when legislators filed a request last September for public documents related to the election.

Clint Brewer, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a statement on Tuesday, "The offer did not preclude the creation of a works council or union representation as a condition for the incentives."

He said the incentive offer had been withdrawn in January before the UAW filed for an election at the plant.

Last September, Rep. Mike Turner, head of the Democratic Caucus in the Tennessee House, requested that Haslam release documents of communication between the governor's office and VW officials regarding incentives. At the time, the governor's office said it would work to fulfill Turner's request.

On Tuesday, Turner asked the leader of the Republican-controlled Tennessee house for an investigation into the incentives issue.

Large auto plants in the United States generally receive large tax breaks and other incentives from states where they are located.

(Reporting By Amanda Becker and Bernie Woodall; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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