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Haslam Offers No Apologies For $300M Volkswagen Offer

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Photo: Video by NewsChannel5.com

Haslam Offers No Apologies For $300M Volkswagen Offer

By Phil Williams. CREATED Apr 1, 2014 - UPDATED: Apr 1, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam offered no apologies Tuesday night for using taxpayer money as leverage in a labor dispute.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates first revealed secret documents Monday regarding a $300 million offer to Volkswagen last fall.

Now, there are calls for investigations.

Months ago, the governor denied that taxpayer money was being offered to defeat the United Auto Workers in their bid to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

"Have you been less than forthcoming in your answers?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked following a speaking event in Chattanooga.

"No, absolutely not," Haslam answered. "Like I say, it's no secret at all that we had an opinion about what should happen there."

While the governor had denied that money was being offered to Volkswagen to help it expand -- in exchange for workers rejecting the UAW's efforts to form a workers' council at the plant -- NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained documents with the details of that confidential offer.

Under the proposal, Volkswagen would get $300 million dollars in incentives for creating 1, 350 new jobs.

But the incentives were "subject to works council discussions ... being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates pointed to that stipulation.

"That proposal said these incentives are contingent upon our satisfaction with the process," we noted.

"Right, and that's exactly right," Haslam responded.

"But you never admitted that," we continued.

"There's nothing to admit to," the governor said. "We've been really clear all along that we had an interest in the outcome of that vote. That's never been a secret to Volkswagen or anybody else."

In fact, it was a secret to the public that the Haslam administration was using the offer of taxpayer money as a way for them to have a say in VW's labor relations.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates also reported that the state withdrew that $300 million offer back in January as VW finalized the plans with the UAW for a vote.

Now, House Democrats have called for a legislative investigation.

In a letter of House Speaker Beth Harwell on Tuesday, Caucus Chair Mike Turner asked for legislative hearings on the deal.

"As elected members of the legislature, we owe it to our constituents to fully vet how our tax dollars are spent," Turner wrote.

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

And the UAW has hinted in legal filings that it might issue subpoenas to prove that Tennessee Republicans were part of a conspiracy to undermine the union vote.

"Are you concerned about that?" we asked the governor.

"No, not at all," he said. "Like I say, I have no doubt we have done the right thing for the state."

The governor said he believe that a UAW win would make it harder to recruit other businesses.

The UAW narrowly lost a vote to unionize the plant back in February, and now it's asking the National Labor Relations Board to order a new vote.

On Tuesday, the union filed some of the documents we uncovered as evidence in their case.

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.