- Associated Press - Thursday, February 13, 2014
Volkswagen workers begin 3-day union vote in Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Workers at Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant in Tennessee on Wednesday kicked off a three-day election that will determine whether they will be represented by the United Auto Workers union.

If the union succeeds, the Chattanooga plant would become the first among foreign automakers in the South to unionize.

A loss for the UAW would deal a severe setback for the union that has staked its future on organizing workers at plants outside of Detroit’s Big Three.

The Chattanooga plant is alone among Volkswagen’s major factories around the world without formal worker representation. The vote presents the UAW’s best chance among the foreign transplants, because the corporate structure of the German automaker favors the creation of “works councils,” where both blue-collar and salaried employees have a say in working conditions at the plant.

The company has said that under U.S. law it can’t create the domestic auto industry’s first works council without the establishment of a union at the plant.

In the interest of gaining a foothold at Volkswagen, the UAW signed an agreement with the company that it would “delegate functions and responsibilities ordinarily belonging to a union to a plant works council” if it wins this week’s vote.

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January tax collections fall short

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee Finance Commissioner Larry Martin says the state’s overall tax collections fell below budgeted expectations in January.

The commissioner said in a news release on Wednesday that collections were $52 million less than the state budgeted.

State sales tax collections grew by 5 percent in January, but state revenues still fell short of predictions because of another poor month of corporate tax collections.

Franchise and excise taxes came in at $49 million below estimates in January, which reflects economic activity in the previous month.

Corporate taxes have come in $207 million below projections through the first six months of the budget year, accounting for nearly all of the $220 million shortfall in the state’s general fund.

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Judge tosses suit filed against Fleischmann

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A lawsuit filed by a former Tennessee Republican party official that accused two high-ranking fellow Republicans of defaming his reputation has been thrown out.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/MLB64Chttp://bit.ly/MLB64C ) is reporting that Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Joe Binkley Jr. has dismissed the 3-year-old lawsuit brought by Mark Winslow. Winslow, a former state GOP staffer, sued U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Chip Saltsman, a former chair of the state Republican Party.

Winslow claimed that Fleischmann obtained confidential documents from the state GOP office related to his severance pay and then turned around and used the information in TV ads against Winslow’s former boss, Robin Smith. Smith had unsuccessfully challenged Fleischmann in the 2010 primary.

Winslow’s lawyer, Nashville attorney Gary Blackburn, said he will appeal the ruling.

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.comhttp://www.timesfreepress.com

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Tenn. declares state of emergency ahead of snow

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The National Weather Service is warning that road conditions in East Tennessee are expected to be treacherous as ice and snow is forecast to pummel that portion of the state overnight.

Tennessee had already declared a state of emergency as forecasters had predicted that some areas could get as much as 12 inches of snow.

The winter storm warning covers a number of southern counties along the border with Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and extends into all of eastern Tennessee into southwest Virginia, meteorologist Eric Holweg said.

It’s expected to snow up to one inch per hour overnight in some places, he said.

Almost all the roads in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park were closed as well as all facilities inside the park, officials said Wednsday.

“The worst is going to be in the Smokeys and dropping off as you head further west from there,” he said of the snowfall. That area, he said, is expected to get 10 to 12 inches of snow.

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