- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014
Blast on site of explosives plants kills 1

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An explosion and fire at a plant in Tennessee where several ammunition and explosives businesses are based has killed one person and left three injured.

Police and fire dispatchers said rescue workers were called Wednesday afternoon to a blast at a plant in McEwen, about 55 miles west of Nashville.

The property where the plant is based is home to several businesses that have federal licenses for ammunition or explosives, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Michael Knight. Knight said it was unclear which plant was involved, and he said agents were still trying to determine exactly what happened.

“The explosion did considerable damage to the facility,” said Odell Poyner, director of the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency.

Poyner said authorities received reports that about 20 employees were in the building at the time of the explosion, which blew out two of the walls and a large portion of the roof. He said he didn’t know who owned the building but he believed that the property it sits on belongs to Accurate Energetic Systems, a company whose website identifies it as a manufacturer of explosive materials for the defense and aerospace industries.

A telephone number listed for AES rang busy numerous times and later was picked up by a recording saying the business was closed.

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2 House Dems pressing inquiry into Tenn. VW vote

WASHINGTON (AP) - Two House Democrats said Wednesday they are beginning their own inquiry into whether Tennessee state officials may have violated “or otherwise run afoul of” federal law by their alleged conduct ahead of a vote by workers at a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., that rejected a bid to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.

They sent a joint letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam seeking more information on activities by state officials ahead of the 712-626 vote against the UAW in February.

“Recent reports suggest that the interference on the part of state officials may be even more troubling that we originally thought,” said the letter by Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and John Tierney, D-Mass. Miller is the senior Democrat on the GOP-led House Education and the Workforce Committee. Tierney is the senior Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee of that committee.

In a news release, the two lawmakers said they wanted more information on “whether any Tennessee state officials conditioned, or threatened to condition, state aid to Volkswagen on the outcome of workers’ efforts to establish a union and/or a works council at the Chattanooga plant.”

“Recently released documents suggest that Tennessee state officials made the availability of state aid for expanding the Volkswagen plant - a mix of cash grants and tax incentives - contingent upon the workers’ decision not to seek union representation. Such state-level conditioning may interfere with employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain, as guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act,” they wrote.

The union claims the election was tainted by threats and intimidation from Republicans including U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and state lawmakers. Corker and others have denied doing anything inappropriate.

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