- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014
VW workers at Tennessee plant reject union

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee have voted against union representation, a devastating loss that derails the United Auto Workers union’s effort to organize Southern factories.

The 712-626 vote released late Friday stunned many labor experts who expected a UAW win because Volkswagen tacitly endorsed the union and even allowed organizers into the Chattanooga factory to make sales pitches.

The loss is a major setback for the UAW’s effort to make inroads in the growing South, where foreign automakers have 14 assembly plants, eight built in the past decade, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Michigan. “If this was going to work anywhere, this is where it was going to work,” she said of Chattanooga.

Organizing a Southern plant is so crucial to the union that UAW President Bob King told workers in a speech that the union has no long-term future without it.

But the loss likely means the union will remain quarantined with the Detroit Three, largely in the Midwest and Northeast.

Many viewed VW as the union’s only chance to gain a crucial foothold in the South because other automakers have not been as welcoming as Volkswagen. Labor interests make up half of the supervisory board at VW in Germany, and they questioned why the Chattanooga plant is the only one without formal worker representation. VW wanted a German-style “works council” in Chattanooga to give employees a say over working conditions. The company says U.S. law won’t allow it without an independent union.

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Tenn package bomb suspect once burned down a house

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee man accused of killing his in-laws with a package bomb burned down a house he was supposed to be renovating more than 20 years ago, and the father-in-law he is now accused of killing helped to defend him.

Danny and Rosemary Martin said in a telephone interview that they contracted with Richard Parker to restore an 1830s cabin in Pulaski that was given to them by relatives when they decided to move to the country to raise their children. The work was supposed to be complete in June 1990, but it began to run well behind schedule and there were also problems with the quality of the work.

They confronted Parker about the problems on Tuesday, July 10, 1990, Rosemary Martin said.

“He said he would have it finished on Friday, and he burned it on Friday. He finished it.”

Parker’s defense team included his father-in-law, Jon Setzer, whom he is now accused of killing, the Martins said. The couple eventually agreed to accept $40,000 restitution and Parker was given four years of probation.

“In hindsight, we probably should have forgotten about that money and let him go to prison,” Danny Martin said.

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Prison for adult performer in buttocks-shot death

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - An adult entertainer was sentenced in Mississippi Friday to seven years in prison for helping set up an illegal silicone buttocks injection that killed an Atlanta woman.

Natasha Stewart, 40, was convicted of manslaughter in the 2012 death of 37-year-old Karima Gordon. Stewart, who goes by the professional name of Pebbelz Da Model, took $200 to refer Gordon to the injector and falsely claimed the person was a nurse.

Mississippi Judge Bill Gowan sentenced Stewart of suburban Memphis, Tenn., to seven years in prison and eight years of suspended time for manslaughter. He ordered her to serve five years at the same time for conspiracy to commit culpable negligence manslaughter.

Stewart says she regrets Gordon’s death and was “blinded by this substance called silicone” and her quest for “outer beauty.”

Stewart pleaded for mercy in the sentencing.

“My heart and deepest condolences go out to Karima Gordon and her family and friends,” Stewart said as she fought back tears. “I’m so deeply sorry. All I ever wanted to do was help Karima.”

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NJ man convicted of smuggling narwhal tusks

BANGOR, Maine (AP) - A New Jersey man accused of smuggling narwhal tusks into the United States was convicted Friday of federal crimes, several of which carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

A federal jury in Maine convicted Andrew Zarauskas of Union, N.J., on six counts, including conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering for his role in a smuggling ring, prosecutors said. He was released on $25,000 unsecured bond while awaiting sentencing.

Narwhals, which are medium-sized whales native to Arctic waters, are known as the unicorns of the sea for their spiral tusks that can grow longer than 8 feet. They are protected by the U.S. and Canada.

The tusks can sell for thousands of dollars, but it’s illegal to import them into the U.S. In Canada, Inuit hunters are the only ones allowed to harvest the animals for their meat, skin and tusks.

Zarauskas’ attorney, Stephen Smith of Bangor, said the verdict would be appealed. “We think the government was overly aggressive in prosecuting this case and created some very important appeal issues,” he told the Bangor Daily News.

Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said the federal government takes the crime seriously.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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