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Haslam's $300M VW Offer Brings Calls For Investigations

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Photo: Video by NewsChannel5.com

Haslam's $300M VW Offer Brings Calls For Investigations

By Phil Williams. CREATED Apr 1, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A NewsChannel 5 investigation is making national news.

Our investigation first revealed how the Haslam administration used $300 million of your money as leverage in its fight against the United Auto Workers.

Late Tuesday, the head of the House Democratic Caucus called for legislative hearings.

"As elected members of the legislature, we owe it to our constituents to fully vet how our tax dollars are spent," Rep. Mike Turner wrote in a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell.

"Nothing in the current code authorizes the Executive Branch to use corporate incentives for the purpose of intervening in a lawfully organized labor election."

He called for a meeting of the legislature's joint Government Operations Committee to review the incentives offer made by the Haslam administration.

In addition, in a new legal filing, the UAW dropped hints that some Tennessee politicians could be forced to testify under oath.

The UAW filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board, citing emails uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates-- emails that they said show Tennessee Republicans conspired with outside organizations to taint a union election.

The issue: should workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga be represented by the UAW? The union lost a narrow vote there back in February.

But documents leaked to NewsChannel 5 Investigates reveal how the Haslam administration insisted upon having a voice in that process -- in exchange for $300 million in incentives that were being offered to VW for a proposed expansion.

"We had back channel information that these people were all conspiring, but this is clear and absolute proof that they were all connected and it was a concerted effort to oppress these workers," said UAW organizer Gary Casteel.

In its new filing, the UAW pointed to emails showing that U.S. Senator Bob Corker's office in Washington was communicating with anti-labor activists about videos that they had produced.

"Is it fair to conclude that your office was coordinating with the opposition?" we recently asked Corker.

"We certainly were very aware of a lot of bodies being involved in this," the Tennessee Republican answered.

So how close was that coordination?

The UAW's filing said that the emails are evidence of "third-party political interference."

"If necessary," it added in a footnote, "the UAW intends to subpoena all relevant witnesses and documents to support its objections, including witnesses and documents related to the investigative reporter's story."

The UAW wants the board to order new elections.

In the end, the final question of whether any of those activities crossed a line could be up to the board.

Corker said, "As a United States senator, I feel like I haven't lost my right to make statements about how I feel."

Back to NC5 Investigates: Tennessee's Secret Deals
NewsChannel 5 Investigates

Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.