- Associated Press - Friday, February 14, 2014
Son-in-law arrested in Tenn. package bomb deaths

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A three-day investigation of an explosion that killed a widely loved and well-respected Tennessee couple in their 70s ended Thursday with authorities charging a son-in-law who lived directly behind them and had been previously convicted of arson.

Richard Parker was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Jon and Marion Setzer, as well as unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon, said State Fire Marshal’s Office spokeswoman Katelyn Abernathy.

Abernathy said she did not have any information about a possible motive for the bombing. Authorities did not release any information about the Setzers’ daughter, Parker’s wife, other than to say that he was the only person charged.

Jon Setzer, 74, was an attorney who handled wills and trusts, but he had been in very ill health in recent years. Friends said he was on dialysis and had heart problems and high blood pressure, among other health issues.

Marion Setzer, 72, had formerly worked as a dental hygienist.

A package exploded at their home on Monday at about 5 p.m., killing Jon Setzer immediately and critically injuring Marion Setzer, who died at a hospital on Wednesday.

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Corker stands by claim VW will expand if UAW loses

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Thursday stood by his statements that Volkswagen is ready to announce it will expand its lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga if workers there reject the United Auto Workers.

But the Tennessee Republican said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that he didn’t inquire whether the German automaker would scrap plans to build a new midsized SUV at the plant if the UAW wins.

About 1,500 workers at the plant are eligible to cast votes in the three-day union election that ends Friday.

Corker declined to say whom at Volkswagen he had spoken to and how they were in a position to know what the German automaker’s decision would be.

While the claimed link between the union vote and the expansion decision has long been denied by company officials, Corker said his sources weren’t concerned about the release of a potentially conflicting information.

“I don’t think there’s any question that a public statement was expected to made,” he said. “What I did was very, very appropriate.”

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5 things to know about the UAW vote at Volkswagen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., are voting whether they want to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. With a three-day election wrapping up Friday, here’s a look at what’s at stake:

ORGANIZING THE TRANSPLANTS: Volkswagen was the first foreign automaker to build a plant in the United States in 1976, and UAW got off to a promising start by gaining representation of workers there. But sluggish sales, quality problems and labor tension caused the German automaker to shutter the plant in southwestern Pennsylvania in 1988. The UAW has failed in its efforts to represent workers at more successful U.S. plants operated by the likes of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes and BMW. Today, a Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill., is the only foreign automaker represented by the UAW, dating back to when it began as a joint venture with Chrysler in 1988.

UAW FUTURE: Bob King, the union’s president, has said the UAW’s long-term future is directly tied to whether it can organize plants outside of Detroit’s Big Three. UAW membership peaked at 1.5 million 1979, before the boom of foreign auto manufacturing concentrated in the South. The union’s membership stood at 382,513 in 2012, a slight improvement over the lows experienced during the depths of auto industry bailout amid the Great Recession, but far from the numbers it needs to thrive.

POLITICAL PUSHBACK: Republican politicians in the South have been vocal opponents of the UAW’s organization drive at Volkswagen, fearing a union foothold there could expand to other plants and make the region less attractive to manufacturers. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, has said Volkswagen would become a “laughingstock” for engaging in discussions with the UAW.

WORKS COUNCIL: Labor interests who make up half of the supervisory board at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, have questioned why the Chattanooga facility is alone among the company’s major plants around the world without formal worker representation. The company wants to create a German-style “works council” in which both blue collar and salaried employees have a say over working conditions. But Volkswagen says U.S. law won’t permit the creation of a works council without the involvement of an independent union.

VOLKSWAGEN EXPANSION: Volkswagen has announced that it will build a new midsized SUV for the U.S. market to try resurrect flagging domestic sales, and that Chattanooga is competing with a Mexican plant to produce it. The company has stressed that cost considerations - and not the union vote - will decide where the SUV is built. But Republican state lawmakers added a twist to those considerations this week by warning that crucial state incentives to expand the plant could be at risk if the UAW wins the election.

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Guns-in-parks bill passes Senate 26-7

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A measure to do away with local government’s power to decide whether to allow firearms in public parks overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Thursday despite concerns expressed by the governor.

The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville was approved 26-7. Six Democrats and one Republican voted against the legislation in the GOP-dominated chamber.

The Legislature in 2009 gave city and county governments the ability to opt out of a new law that allowed firearms in public parks, playgrounds and sports fields. Under Campfield’s proposal, permit holders would be allowed to carry, unless there’s a school function.

Supporters of the measure have said the state shouldn’t defer to local governments on important issues such as gun rights.

“What this goes back to is the state constitution,” Campfield said. “It says the state shall regulate the bearing of arms. It doesn’t give us the authority to delegate to … municipalities.”

Opponents disagree.

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