Tennesse Republican senator Bob Corker has told Volkswagen officials that he thinks it would be "highly detrimental" if the United Auto Workers 'organises' its new Chattanooga assembly plant.

"I was asked to give input, and I did," Corker told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The advice stemmed from his experience trying to negotiate with the union during the 2008 federal bailout of GM and Chrysler, he said.

"I certainly shared with [VW] I couldn't see how there was any possibility it could be a benefit to them to enter into a contract with UAW," said Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor.

He stressed he was not "anti-union" and said he often employed union craftsmen when he ran a construction company.

But the UAW "breeds an 'us versus they' relationship, and I just don't think it's healthy for a company to be set up in that regard," Corker said.

Bob King, president of the 400,000-plus-member labour union, said the UAW was interested in organising the VW plant.

"We want workers there, and not just Chattanooga but all non-union assembly facilities," King said. "We want workers to have a choice to come into the UAW."

King, who became UAW president in June, said Corker is "talking about the past and not the present or the future."

There is a difference between "this 20th century perception of UAW" and "the 21st century reality where we're proactive on all these issues of quality and productivity," he said.

The UAW is "committed to the success of the employers that we represent, Ford, GM, Chrysler," King said, and the union supports a "winning formula" for overseas transplants "whether it be Volkswagen, Toyota or Honda."

Guenther Scherelis, Volkswagen Group of America's general manager of communication, declined to address Corker's specific comments as well as King's.

"At Volkswagen Chattanooga, the employees will decide for themselves about their representation," Scherelis told the paper by email.

Asked if Volkswagen management would take a stance if the UAW seeks to organise a union, Scherelis replied, "Volkswagen Chattanooga has a neutral position."

VW's Chattanooga plant will employ as many as 2,500 workers starting early next year. The US$1bn facility will produce a midsize sedan aimed at the American market.

Auto companies from Japan, Germany and South Korea which flocked to the United States in recent decades located largely in right-to-work states such as Tennessee where workers can't be forced to join unions to get jobs.

The report noted the UAW had a presence at a Volkswagen-owned plant that operated in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, between 1978 and 1988.

Corker said he formed his views of the UAW when he was lead Republican negotiator with Democrats on the proposed auto industry bailouts for GM and Chrysler in 2008.

"It was very, very apparent during the intense negotiations we were having that the success of the company was way, way, way, way down the list of what mattered," Corker said. "I just can't imagine any company of their own accord of being desirous of entering into a relationship with UAW."

But King, who noted he hopes to reach out to Corker, said any company with union employees is "going to have better quality and better productivity working with UAW because we've become experts in these areas, and we do it in a way that we really involve our membership."

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