SPRING HILL, Tenn. – General Motors announced Wednesday that it is moving production of its next-generation Cadillac SRX crossover SUV from Mexico to its plant in Tennessee, leading United Auto Workers leaders to chide Tennessee Republicans for their opposition to the union increasing its influence in the state.
The UAW has represented workers at the former Saturn plant since it opened on the outskirts of Nashville in 1990, but state Republicans, including Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, have fought the union’s efforts to gain representation of workers at Volkswagen’s plant about 100 miles to the east in Chattanooga.
Haslam and Corker have argued that the UAW getting foothold with its first foreign automaker in the South would hurt the region’s ability to attract new investment from automotive manufacturers and suppliers and that it would decrease competitiveness because of higher wages and a confrontational working environment.
UAW President Dennis Williams said in an email to supporters that Wednesday’s announcement of the new model and production of small gasoline engines in Spring Hill flies in the face of what he called “union-busting politicians” who claim that collective bargaining hurts productivity.
“While politicians were talking trash, UAW members were working hard to make sure GM brings jobs back from Mexico and continues expanding here at home,” Williams said.
UAW officials at the Spring Hill announcement repeatedly cited an atmosphere of collaboration with management and collective bargaining agreements in gaining new production at the plant, which was idled as recently as in 2011.
“It’s time for that pitting-us-against-them mentality to go away,” UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Haslam were diplomatic Wednesday about the UAW’s role at the plant. Corker, who was booed by plant workers during a visit in 2011, did not attend Wednesday’s event.
Workers at the Volkswagen plant narrowly rejected the union in an election this year, but the UAW has said it expects VW to recognize the union without another vote once it gets enough workers to sign membership cards.
The Cadillac production will bring more jobs to Spring Hill, but a GM spokesman wouldn’t give specifics on how many.