CWF Profiled in the Wall Street Journal

Posted on Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 at 1:45 pm - Permalink

Conservative Activists to Oppose VW's Chattanooga Union Vote; Group Linked to Grover Norquist Plans Billboard and Radio Campaign

By Neal E. Boudette

4 February 2014

The Wall Street Journal Online

Copyright 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A conservative activist group based in Washington is preparing to weigh in against the looming union vote at Volkswagen AG's Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, in a bid to stop the United Auto Workers from organizing the factory.

The Center for Worker Freedom, which is backed by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, has rented 13 billboards around Chattanooga and booked commercials on local radio stations, the group's executive director, Matt Patterson, said in a telephone interview.

"We just want the citizens of Chattanooga to be aware of what the UAW's history is," he said. "There is no question they contributed to the bankruptcy of General Motors and to the general decline of the American auto industry. The community should know that before this vote."

Mr. Patterson declined to say how much the Center for Worker Freedom is spending its media campaign.

The rapid ramp-up of the group's antiunion effort is likely only a first step by outside groups to turn the vote at the Chattanooga plant into a wider political battle. Another conservative group, the National Right To Work Committee, has been providing legal help for a group of Chattanooga workers who oppose the UAW, and Tennessee Republicans, including Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker, have spoken out against the union's drive and Volkswagen's action in facilitating the vote.

In an unusual move for the auto industry in the U.S., the German auto maker is cooperating with the UAW and allowing it to campaign openly in the Chattanooga plant ahead of voting by workers, which is scheduled for Feb. 12-14. The company asked the National Labor Relations Board on Monday to conduct the vote, leaving a campaigning period of just 10 days.

Other auto makers have resisted organizing drives by the UAW. When votes are held, they typically prevent the union from campaigning inside their factories and push for campaigning periods of five weeks or more to give time to counter the union's message.

While it is allowing UAW organizers to speak to employees, Volkswagen management has denied requests by antiunion employees to mount their own campaign drive inside the facility.

Mr. Patterson said he believes it is important to stop the UAW from organizing the Chattanooga plant because he fears the union could try to use the momentum of a victory there to redouble efforts to unionize other auto plants in the south, such as a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., and a BMW AG plant in Spartanburg, S.C.

He believes unionizing the workforce will raise costs at the plant and make them less competitive. "My goal is to protect the manufacturing base of the south," he said.

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