Home » Entries posted by JONATHAN MATTISE Associated Press

Lawmakers: Parental OK needed for minors to get COVID shot

Lawmakers: Parental OK needed for minors to get COVID shot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two Tennessee Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they received assurances that the state’s health agency won’t vaccinate minors for COVID-19 without parental consent, doubling back on a decades-old provision about children’s vaccination rights that was a lightning rod in the firing of the state’s top vaccine official.The announcement came during a meeting of the same legislative panel that last month grilled Department of Health officials — among them, then-vaccine chief Michelle Fiscus. The state has since terminated Fiscus in what she contends was a move to appease some GOP lawmakers who fumed over state outreach for COVID-19 vaccinations to minors. Some even threatened to dissolve the Health Department.Sen. Kerry Roberts and Rep. John Ragan, GOP co-chairs of the Joint Government Operations Committee, said in a statement read at Wednesday’s meeting that they had met with Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and a member of Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s office. A spokesperson for the Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the discussion.According to the lawmakers, both administration officials confirmed during that meeting that it’s not the policy of the Department of Health, Department of Education or the 89 county health departments under the state’s direct control to give the COVID-19 vaccine to children without parental consent, Roberts read in the statement. Six larger counties, such as Nashville and Memphis’ Shelby County, are run independently.The lawmakers did not say the change would limit medical providers outside the government.Roberts also said Piercey detailed steps taken “to stop any marketing directed at minors.”The Republicans’ statement didn’t mention Fiscus, who has said the Health Department has stopped outreach for vaccinating minors for all diseases, not just COVID-19, which she has backed up through departmental email records. She has noted that she never said the children’s vaccines program had been halted. The Department of Health has recently directed parents to state websites for information on childhood vaccines.Roberts and Ragan also sought to defend Republicans in the Legislature. They said they haven’t discouraged Tennesseans from being vaccinated or having their children vaccinated by opposing COVID-19 shots for minors without parental consent and criticizing the state’s marketing outreach on childhood vaccines. They claim the outreach targeted children, not parents.“Interpreting these two concerns as being anti-vaxxers is intellectually dishonest, it’s lazy and it’s wrong,” Roberts said in the statement.At issue is a memo sent by Fiscus about Tennessee’s Mature Minor Doctrine, which traces back to a 1987 state Supreme Court case and allows providers to vaccinate children 14 and up without a parent’s consent.A Department of Health official’s recommendation to fire Fiscus claims she sent around “her own interpretation” of the doctrine. It also alleged deficiencies in her leadership, citing issues with staff.Fiscus has said the letter she sent providers was verbatim from documents provided by the department’s chief legal counsel. She provided email records to back up the assertion. She also issued a point-by-point rebuttal to the alleged fire-able offenses and distributed years of positive performance reviews from her supervisor, including as early as last month when she was praised for her “strong leadership.”Tennessee is one of five states where providers have discretion to decide if a minor is mature enough to consent to vaccination without a parent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which said 41 other states require parental consent and five others have a self-consent age under 18.At the June hearing, Piercey said she knew of only eight times this year when Tennessee’s doctrine was invoked, and three were for her own children, who received vaccines while she was at work.Roberts and Ragan also blasted “anyone who is bullying, bribing, shaming, coercing or cajoling an individual into taking the vaccine.”The two lawmakers listed what they called “unacceptable behavior,” though without providing proof that anything like those scenarios actually happened — demanding football players wear masks and test weekly at their own expense until they are vaccinated; suspending marching band members from the halftime show unless they get vaccinated; segregating vaccinated and unvaccinated children in school; or a county health department paying or incentivizing parents to vaccinate children.Roberts did not allow discussion on the topic Wednesday, despite having Democrats on the panel who have opposed the state’s direction on vaccines and a handful of Fiscus’ supporters in the audience. Piercey was unable to attend the meeting due to a previously planned trip with her family, a spokesperson said.Speaking to reporters, Rep. Vincent Dixie, the Democratic Caucus chairman, blasted Republican colleagues for closing off discussion and said they were using “figments of imagination” as examples. He said the methods that the Republicans decried were the ones they used against Fiscus.“The same tactics that Sen. Roberts said about bullying, cajoling, ridiculing people, they used them against Dr. Piercey and Dr. Fiscus,” Dixie said.

Review praised vaccine director's leadership before firing

Review praised vaccine director's leadership before firing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Before a top Tennessee health official recommended firing the state’s former vaccine director over claims that include shortcomings in her leadership, her supervisor had praised her “strong leadership” as recently as last month while her program faced “very intense scrutiny and performance expectations,” according to a state job performance evaluation circulated publicly on her behalf.The interim performance review sheds additional light on the circumstances leading up to the July 12 termination of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who has spent the last week speaking nationally in rebuttal to a firing she argues was political appeasement for Republican lawmakers who were fuming over the department’s COVID-19 vaccine outreach efforts for eligible minors.In a July 9 letter, Tennessee’s chief medical officer, Tim Jones, said Michelle Fiscus should be removed due to complaints about her leadership approach and her handling of a letter explaining vaccination rights of minors for COVID-19 shots, which helped prompt the backlash from lawmakers. The Department of Health released her personnel file, including the firing recommendation letter, in response to public records requests from news outlets.Tennessee officials didn’t include her performance reviews, which are exempted under state public records law, but Fiscus’ husband Brad released them in rebuttal. Several years’ worth of them show her performance was deemed “outstanding,” including for October 2019 through September 2020. Over the weekend, Brad Fiscus said they located two more recent interim evaluations. One followed a legislative meeting last month that put the department in the hot seat over its childhood vaccine messaging efforts.That meeting is briefly mentioned in the June performance review by Fiscus’ supervisor, state epidemiologist John Dunn, who suggests she “work closely with her supervisor during the upcoming month to coordinate and clear all vaccine communications following legislative (Government Operations) hearings focused on (Tennessee Department of Health) immunization priorities and actions.”Neither review directly mentions her much-discussed memo on the Mature Minor Doctrine, which traces back to a 1987 state Supreme Court case and allows children 14 and up to be vaccinated without a parent’s consent. The recommendation to fire her claims she sent around “her own interpretation” of the doctrine. Fiscus has said the letter she sent providers was verbatim from documents provided by the department’s chief legal counsel. She provided email records to back up the assertion.Dunn’s evaluations praise Fiscus multiple times. The June review says the state’s “COVID vaccination planning and program implementation have been excellent” under her.It also laments that vaccination rates have been “disappointing due in part to Tennessee’s population demographics and core beliefs on vaccination.” Dunn mentions Fiscus’ work to promote the vaccine, but says ”the communications approach has been less robust than advocated for from the (Tennessee Department of Health) perspective because of overarching Government Comms team objectives” outside of the department’s Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness Division.“I appreciate Dr. Fiscus and her determination,” Dunn wrote. “The implementation plan has been very successful in reaching the most at-risk in our population.”In the June review, Dunn notes the loss of some employees and some staff complaints to department leaders and human resources. In both reviews, Dunn frames staff-related concerns within the context of how the unprecedented COVID-19 response has taken a toll on health workers nationwide.“The toll of COVID has been dramatic,” the June review states. “Dr. Fiscus has balanced her responsibilities well and should continue to focus on her team and herself in regards to work-life balance, professional development, and job satisfaction.”Within the April review, Dunn raises concerns over the proposals being floated by lawmakers due to the pandemic. He stressed the importance of communicating with the department’s legal counsel and “legislative leads” because “COVID has created much legislation which threatens (the Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness Division) and public health program objectives.”Late last week, Fiscus released a point-by-point rebuttal on the claims made in the firing recommendation.She also responded to the governor’s office regarding her claims that the Health Department stopped outreach for vaccinating minors for all diseases, not just COVID-19, which she has backed up through departmental email records, saying she never said the children’s vaccines program had been halted. What has been stopped, she said, are “partnerships between local health departments and outside agencies, such as schools, to provide vaccines outside of a local health department” and “any attempts to communicate to parents that their children are in need of critical routine immunizations during this back-to-school season.”Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s office and the Health Department have declined to comment directly on Fiscus’ firing.One prominent Tennessee Republican weighed in Friday, though without naming Fiscus or the pause over outreach for childhood vaccines.Former U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, a surgeon, tweeted that “it is the responsibility of our state’s leaders to take sometimes uncomfortable, even unpopular, positions when the health and lives of our people are at stake.”“Tennessee can stand by #science and #savelives, or we can further a dangerous trend that is eroding public health and trust in government,” Frist tweeted.

Ex-Tennessee vaccine leader: Firing put politics over health

Ex-Tennessee vaccine leader: Firing put politics over health

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s former top vaccinations official said Tuesday that she couldn’t stay silent after she was fired this week amid scrutiny from Republican state lawmakers over her department’s outreach efforts to vaccinate teenagers against COVID-19.Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who was the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health, said the state’s elected leaders put politics over the health of children by firing her for her efforts to get more Tennesseans vaccinated.She said the agency presented her with a letter of resignation and a letter of termination Monday, but no reason for why she was being let go.After choosing the termination letter, Fiscus penned a blistering 1,200-word response in which she said she is ashamed of Tennessee’s leaders, afraid for her state, and “angry for the amazing people of the Tennessee Department of Health who have been mistreated by an uneducated public and leaders who have only their own interests in mind.”She also revealed that the Tennessee Department of Health has halted all outreach efforts around any kind of vaccines for children, not just COVID-19 ones, which The Tennessean confirmed through department documents. All of it, she warned, comes as only 38% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, lagging behind much of the nation.”I don’t think they realized how much of an advocate I am for public health and how intolerant of injustice I am,” Fiscus told The Associated Press on Tuesday in one of several interviews with numerous news outlets.So far, Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration has been silent on the firing. His office and the Health Department declined to comment, citing personnel matters. After an event Tuesday, Lee did not answer questions from reporters.Democrats blasted the firing, with Sen. Raumesh Akbari saying Fiscus was “sacrificed in favor of anti-vaccine ideology.” House Speaker Cameron Sexton was one of few Republicans to weigh in, saying through a spokesperson that health officials made the decision internally.“While members have expressed concerns about the department’s recent vaccine marketing strategy, Speaker Sexton will not speculate on the factors that went into this decision,” said Sexton’s spokesperson, Doug Kufner. “However, Speaker Sexton does believe that those who have voiced their dissent agree with yesterday’s outcome.”Republican Sen. Richard Briggs, a physician, said he’s also unsure why Fiscus got fired, but said “it would be wrong if the reason for her firing was because she had a campaign to try to get our children vaccinated.” He said he doesn’t want to second-guess the department, but “because of the way it at least looks superficially without the details being known, there probably needs to be some clarification.”During a June committee meeting, angry Republican lawmakers invoked Fiscus’ name over a letter she sent to medical providers who administer vaccines explaining the state’s legal mechanism letting them vaccinate minors as young as 14 without parental consent, called the “Mature Minor Doctrine.” The letter was in response to providers’ questions and didn’t contain new information.Fiscus said the health department’s attorney provided the letter. The attorney, she said, had said the letter had been “blessed by the governor’s office.” She said the doctrine was based on a 1987 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling and her job was to explain what is allowable.Republican lawmakers also admonished the agency for its communications about the vaccine, including online posts. One graphic, featuring a photo of a smiling child with a Band-Aid on his arm, said, “Tennesseans 12+ are eligible for vaccines. Give COVID-19 vaccines a shot.”During the hearing, Republican Rep. Scott Cepicky held a printout of a Facebook ad saying teens were eligible, calling the agency’s advocacy “reprehensible” and likening it to peer pressure.Asked about the hearing, the governor last month said generally that the state will “continue to encourage folks to seek access – adults for their children, and adults for themselves to make the personal choice for vaccine.”Two weeks after the hearing, the Health Department instructed county-level employees to stop vaccination events aimed at teens and to halt online outreach to them, The Tennessean previously reported, citing emails it obtained.Fiscus said issues on vaccine communication arose last fall, before the shots were federally authorized, when health officials asked for permission to start messaging about how COVID-19 vaccines would be safe, effective and well-studied. She said they were denied and the governor’s office controlled communication, adding that the state’s public messaging began this May.“When the vaccines did finally become available, the messaging that came from the governor’s communication team was, ‘Talk to your doctor to see if COVID-19 vaccine is right for you,’” Fiscus said. “We tried to explain that this is not a foot powder. This is the life-saving tool that we have to fight this pandemic and that we should be strongly encouraging people to get vaccinated.”

Lawyer: Ex-officer reaches plea deal in Black man's death

Lawyer: Ex-officer reaches plea deal in Black man's death

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A white former Nashville police officer will plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter Friday just ahead of his first-degree murder trial, three years after he fatally shot an armed Black man from behind during a foot chase, his attorney confirmed Thursday.Attorney David Raybin made the confirmation on behalf of former Officer Andrew Delke, who was about to face trial for a first-degree murder charge over the death of 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick in July 2018. The shooting occurred before the death of George Floyd and the trial would have come after the conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s murder.Delke, 27, submitted his resignation Thursday, Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron said. Delke had been decommissioned, which means he had to turn over his gun but was able to work a desk job and still get paid.The attorney for Hambrick’s family, Joy Kimbrough, said Hambrick’s mother, Vickie Hambrick, was not contacted or consulted and did not know about the plea deal until after it was done. Kimbrough said the deal includes a three-year prison sentence. Raybin declined to comment on any sentence length.“She’s very upset about it. She’s distraught about it. And she has said it’s like losing her son all over again,” Kimbrough said of Hambrick’s mother.A spokesperson for District Attorney Glenn Funk said he could not confirm anything.After COVID-19 delays and pretrial back-and-forth, jury selection was slated to start next week in the case. The trial was going to center on a handgun Hambrick was holding that Delke claims was pointed at him for a moment, which prosecutors dispute and video footage doesn’t show.Prosecutors focused on surveillance footage that captured the shooting, in which Delke stops chasing and shoots the fleeing man. Defense attorneys have contended there was a 36-foot blindspot and plenty could have happened there. There were dozens of cameras, and defense attorneys contended that it was possible that more footage was caught of that blindspot, but wasn’t reviewed by investigators before it was automatically overwritten on the system.The month after the shooting, Funk released surveillance footage of the shooting publicly, sparking wider attention and outcry. Delke was charged in September 2018, and the shooting caused enough backlash that voters that November installed a community oversight board for Nashville’s police department.Convicting an officer for an on-duty death remains a tall order. Since 2005, there have been 143 nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers with arrest powers arrested for murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting throughout the U.S., with only 45 convicted of a crime resulting from the on-duty shooting, according to a tally from Bowling Green State University criminal justice professor Philip Stinson.Criminal cases for 53 of the officers ended in a non-conviction, while 45 cases are still pending, according to the findings.Nineteen of those 45 convicted were through a guilty plea — similar to what is planned in Delke’s case — while the rest were through a jury conviction, according to Stinson’s research.In only 25 of the 143 arrests did the person who was fatally shot have a gun; just five were convicted, according to Stinson’s tally. He said there’s always risk for prosecutors that a case like this could end in an acquittal or a mistrial with a hung jury.“It’s not uncommon for the case to end in a guilty plea and it’s not uncommon for the case to end in a guilty plea on the eve of trial, either,” Stinson said.Delke’s attorneys argued the officer followed his training and Tennessee law in response to “an armed suspect who ignored repeated orders to drop his gun.” Funk argued Delke had other alternatives, adding that the officer could have stopped, sought cover and called for help.On the day of the shooting, Delke was in his patrol car as part of a juvenile-focused unit looking for stolen cars and known juvenile offenders. He followed a car despite learning it was not stolen and never saw the driver or determined how many people were inside, according to an arrest affidavit. The car didn’t pull over as it headed onto the interstate and Delke put on the sirens. He followed from a distance and lost track of the car for some time.Delke later pulled into a public housing complex and Hambrick was standing outside the car and began running. Delke chased Hambrick and yelled at him to stop, though the officer didn’t know Hambrick’s identity or if he was connected to the car he had been pursuing, the affidavit says.Hambrick wouldn’t drop a gun despite Delke’s instructions, the affidavit says. Delke “stopped, assumed a firing position, and aimed his service weapon,” firing four times, it says. One shot hit Hambrick’s back, another his torso and a third the back of his head. The fourth shot missed.Nashville’s Metro Council has approved a $2.25 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit by Hambrick’s family.

Agency: Tennessee zinc miner fired for voicing safety worry

Federal regulators have brought a complaint against a zinc mining company claiming that an employee in Tennessee was illegally fired for making safety complaints about the mineBy JONATHAN MATTISE Associated PressJune 20, 2021, 12:31 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNASHVILLE, Tenn. — Federal regulators have brought a complaint against a zinc mining company, claiming that an employee in Tennessee was illegally fired for making safety complaints about the mine.U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh filed the complaint earlier this month with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission against Nyrstar Gordonsville LLC on behalf of worker Richard Waller. An administrative law judge in April approved the labor secretary’s request for temporary reinstatement of Waller’s pay and benefits while the case over the Cumberland mine in Smith County proceeds.The complaint claims Waller was fired for documenting unsafe conditions in the mine’s shaft inspection book; complaining to supervising staff about those conditions; engaging in protected refusal to perform welding without a required fire extinguisher; and speaking with a Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector who was on site at the mine.In an agreement signed by the company and attorneys for Department of Labor and Waller, instead of physically returning to work, the mine worker is temporarily receiving his pay and benefits and can seek work elsewhere while his case proceeds.In statements in the case, Waller wrote that the form given to him during his firing said he was terminated for “insubordination,” though the only discipline that should have remained on his record was a two-day suspension in January 2021 for a violation of the lockout/tagout policy to isolate energy sources before workers do mechanical or electrical work.He wrote that the company claimed that it “adheres to a Progressive Discipline policy,” which he said the company didn’t follow, saying further that the policy has so many caveats it is meaningless.Representatives from Nyrstar did not immediately return email requests for comment on the complaint.The complaint seeks the expungement of the firing from Waller’s record; reinstatement of employment; full back pay with interest and benefits; and a $20,000 penalty.The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act says mine workers can’t be terminated, discriminated against or interfered with for certain protected safety and health activities, such as filing a complaint alleging a violation, or refusing to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.Since 2009, the most requests in one year that an administration has filed with the mine safety commission to temporarily reinstate workers for retaliation over safety or health activities is 40 in 2012, according to federal data. From 2017 until 2020, the years of former President Donald Trump’s administration, there were 12.5 filed annually on average. From 2009 until 2016, former President Barack Obama’s time in office, there were 26.6 filed a year on average. There have been nine filed this year to date.

Order: Union can't limit vote to 87 Tennessee Nissan workers

Order: Union can't limit vote to 87 Tennessee Nissan workers

Federal regulators have denied a union push to try to organize fewer than 100 employees at the Nissan assembly plant in TennesseeBy JONATHAN MATTISE Associated PressJune 14, 2021, 11:31 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNASHVILLE, Tenn. — Federal regulators have denied a union’s push to try to organize fewer than 100 employees at the Nissan assembly plant in Tennessee, ruling instead to set a union election of 4,300 plantwide production and maintenance workers that the union says it will not pursue.A National Labor Relations Board official ruled Friday that the 87 tool and die technicians at Nissan’s Smyrna plant share an “overwhelming community of interest” with the rest of the facility’s production and maintenance workers. The official wrote that the only appropriate unionized group through the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers campaign would be one representing all of those workers.The machinists union said in a statement that it “strongly disagrees with this decision” and would request a review of the NLRB regional director’s decision.The decision complicates efforts in the latest foray in the uphill fight for unions to gain traction at foreign-owned auto assembly plants in the traditionally anti-union South. In-person voting was scheduled July 7 and 8 at the plant, located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) outside of Nashville. Since the union won’t pursue the larger vote, per the order, the petition for wall-to-wall representation will be dismissed within two business days when the union doesn’t show at least 30% of the 4,300 workers support unionizing.The union has argued that the 87 employees sought for a bargaining unit have extremely specialized skills for a job that others at the plant cannot do and should be eligible for standalone representation. Meanwhile, the company has contended that the employees are not sufficiently distinct from other plant workers to be eligible for their own small unionized bloc.Lisa Henderson, acting regional director for the National Labor Relations Board, wrote that although the tool and die workers have unique skills, those are outweighed by other commonalities, including terms and conditions of employment, integration and contact with other types of workers.“Nissan’s history reflects that we respect the right of employees to determine who should represent their interests in the workplace,” said Nissan spokesperson Lloryn Love-Carter. “We are pleased with the board’s position that representation should be decided by all employees at the Nissan Smyrna Assembly Plant, not a small subset of the population.”Nissan does work with organized labor in the rest of the world, but votes to unionize broadly at the U.S. two plants have not been close. Workers in Smyrna rejected a plantwide union under the United Auto Workers in 2001 and 1989. The Japan-based automaker’s other U.S. assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, rejected facilitywide representation by the UAW during a 2017 vote.The margin was much closer in 2014 and 2019 votes at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where workers twice rejected a factorywide union under the UAW.The year after the 2014 vote failed, a group of 160 Chattanooga maintenance workers won a vote to form a smaller union, but Volkswagen refused to bargain. The German automaker had argued the bargaining unit needed to include production workers as well. The dust-up led to the 2019 factorywide vote.Unions also have run into opposition from Republican politicians when they attempt to organize at foreign automakers in the South, including in Tennessee.Tennessee does have a big union presence at an American automaker. The General Motors plant in Spring Hill has about 3,000 production and skilled trades workers represented by UAW.

Tennessee Nissan plant union election set; small unit denied

Federal regulators have denied a union push to try to organize fewer than 100 employees at the Nissan assembly plant in TennesseeBy JONATHAN MATTISE Associated PressJune 14, 2021, 10:20 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNASHVILLE, Tenn. — Federal regulators have denied a union’s push to try to organize fewer than 100 employees at the Nissan assembly plant in Tennessee, ruling instead to set a union election of 4,300 plantwide production and maintenance workers next month.A National Labor Relations Board official ruled Friday that the 87 tool and die technicians at Nissan’s Smyrna plant share an “overwhelming community of interest” with the rest of the facility’s production and maintenance workers. The official wrote that the only appropriate unionized group through the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers campaign would be one representing all of those workers.The machinists union said in a statement that it “strongly disagrees with this decision” and would request a review of the NLRB regional director’s decision.The decision complicates efforts in the latest foray in the uphill fight for unions to gain traction at foreign-owned auto assembly plants in the traditionally anti-union South. In-person voting is scheduled July 7 and 8 at the plant, located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) outside of Nashville.The union has argued that the 87 employees sought for a bargaining unit have extremely specialized skills for a job that others at the plant cannot do and should be eligible for standalone representation. Meanwhile, the company has contended that the employees are not sufficiently distinct from other plant workers to be eligible for their own small unionized bloc.Lisa Henderson, acting regional director for the National Labor Relations Board, wrote that although the tool and die workers have unique skills, those are outweighed by other commonalities, including terms and conditions of employment, integration and contact with other types of workers.“Nissan’s history reflects that we respect the right of employees to determine who should represent their interests in the workplace,” said Nissan spokesperson Lloryn Love-Carter. “We are pleased with the board’s position that representation should be decided by all employees at the Nissan Smyrna Assembly Plant, not a small subset of the population.”Nissan does work with organized labor in the rest of the world, but votes to unionize broadly at the U.S. two plants have not been close. Workers in Smyrna rejected a plantwide union under the United Auto Workers in 2001 and 1989. The Japan-based automaker’s other U.S. assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, rejected facilitywide representation by the UAW during a 2017 vote.The margin was much closer in 2014 and 2019 votes at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where workers twice rejected a factorywide union under the UAW.The year after the 2014 vote failed, a group of 160 Chattanooga maintenance workers won a vote to form a smaller union, but Volkswagen refused to bargain. The German automaker had argued the bargaining unit needed to include production workers as well. The dust-up led to the 2019 factorywide vote.Unions also have run into opposition from Republican politicians when they attempt to organize at foreign automakers in the South, including in Tennessee.Tennessee does have a big union presence at an American automaker. The General Motors plant in Spring Hill has about 3,000 production and skilled trades workers represented by UAW.