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AFTER UAW DEFEAT, CAN GOP FULFILL PROMISE OF JOBS?

Monday, 17 February 2014 06:55 Published in National News

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- Republicans fighting a yearslong unionization effort at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee painted a grim picture in the days leading up to last week's vote. They said if Chattanooga employees joined the United Auto Workers, jobs would go elsewhere and incentives for the company would disappear.

Now that workers have rejected the UAW in a close vote, attention turns to whether the GOP can fulfill its promises that keeping the union out means more jobs will come rolling in, the next great chapter in the flourishing of foreign auto makers in the South.

Regardless of what political consequences, if any, Republicans would face if that fails to happen, the Volkswagen vote established a playbook for denying the UAW its goal of expanding into foreign-owned plants in the region, which the union itself has called the key to its long-term future.

On the first of three days of voting at the Chattanooga plant, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker all but guaranteed the German automaker would announce within two weeks of a union rejection that it would build a new midsized sport utility vehicle at its only U.S. factory instead of sending the work to Mexico.

"What they wanted me to know, unsolicited, that if the vote goes negative, they're going to announce immediately that they're going to build a second line," Corker told The Associated Press of his conversations with unnamed Volkswagen officials.

The company reiterated its longstanding position that the union vote would not factor into the decision, and Corker acknowledged that he had no information on whether the company would also expand if the union won.

But the implication was clear, and union leaders said after the vote that the senator's statements - coming in concert with threats from state lawmakers to torpedo state incentives if the UAW won - played a key role in the vote.

The UAW was defeated in a 712-626 vote Friday night.

UAW President Bob King called it unprecedented for Corker and other elected officials to have "threatened the company with no incentives, threatened workers with a loss of product."

"It's outrageous," King said.

Corker, who had originally announced he would refrain from making public comments during the election, changed course last week after he said the union tried to use his silence to chastise other critics. Corker said after the vote that he was happy he joined the fray.

"I have no idea what effect we may or may not have had," Corker said. "But I think I would have forever felt tremendous remorse if ... I had not re-engaged and made sure that people understand other arguments that needed to be put forth."

Corker's claim that a no vote would quickly mean more jobs actually fit in with an assertion Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam leveled days earlier, when he said a union win would hurt the state's ability to attract auto parts suppliers and other future business.

"From our viewpoint, from what we're hearing from other companies, it matters what happens in that vote," he said.

Corker said the day after the vote that he and other state officials planned to restart discussions with Volkswagen officials this week about state subsidies for expanded production in Chattanooga.

Many viewed VW as the union's best chance to win in the South because other automakers have not been as welcoming to organized labor as Volkswagen.

Labor interests make up half of the supervisory board at VW in Germany, and they questioned why the Chattanooga plant is the company's only major factory worldwide without formal worker representation.

VW wanted a German-style "works council" in Chattanooga to give employees, blue collar and salaried workers, a say over working conditions. But the company said U.S. law won't allow it without an independent union.

Several workers who cast votes against the union said they still support the idea of a works council - they just don't want to have to work through the UAW.

Frank Fischer, the CEO and chairman of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, said the vote Friday wasn't a rejection of a works council. He said the goal remains to determine the best method for establishing a works council that serves employees' interest, and Volkswagen America's production in accordance with U.S. law.

Fischer did not address what the vote means for potential expansion at the plant other than to say "our commitment to Tennessee is a long-term investment."

The German automaker's CEO, Martin Winterkorn, announced at the Detroit auto show last month that the seven-passenger SUV will go on sale in the U.S. in 2016. Winterkorn said the new model will be part of a five-year, $7 billion investment in North America.

Winterkorn said Volkswagen is committed to its goal of selling 1 million vehicles per year in the U.S. by 2018. The company sold just over half that many in 2013.

---

Krisher reported from Detroit.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

THICK FOG CAUSES DELAYS AT SOCHI OLYMPICS

Monday, 17 February 2014 06:47 Published in Sports

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- Thick fog lingering over the mountains Monday caused the biggest weather disruptions of the Sochi Olympics so far, with a biathlon race and a snowboard event both postponed until Tuesday.

The fog rolled in over the mountains in Krasnaya Polyana on Sunday night and was still shrouding some of the Olympic skiing venues in a cloud-like mist by late Monday afternoon. That prompted organizers to call off the men's biathlon mass-start race and men's snowboardcross almost simultaneously.

The rescheduling didn't seem to be a major concern for the athletes, though.

"This is standard for snowboarding and ski events. Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate," American snowboardcross rider Nate Holland said.

The biathlon race had already been pushed back from Sunday evening to Monday morning, and was then postponed to mid-afternoon before being called off for another day. It will now be held Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., organizers said. A decision on the women's mass-start race still scheduled for its original 7 p.m. start was set to be made later Monday.

"Well, I am going to sleep again," double Olympic champion Martin Fourcade tweeted in French after the race was postponed. "We'll see each other tomorrow!"

At the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the snowboardcross was also first delayed then postponed. Organizers first canceled the seeding runs for the event, then pushed back the elimination races before calling it a day. The elimination races will now start at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, with the seeding runs scrapped.

The Alpine events were not affected because Monday was an off-day, but organizers called off a free skiing session to keep the course intact for Tuesday's women's giant slalom.

Women's race director Atle Skaardal said the fog could still affect that event if it remains.

"I don't know if they'll see anything," Skaardal said.

The ski jumping venue is at a lower altitude and was not shrouded in the thick fog. A training round for Nordic combined athletes was held without disruptions, and the ski jump team event was also expected to go ahead as scheduled.

The fog is causing a new challenge for the athletes following days of sunshine and unseasonably warm weather. At the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center, the high temperatures toward the end of last week had softened the snow and led to some cross-country skiers cutting off the sleeves on their suits.

In biathlon, fog is an even bigger problem because it limits the visibility on the shooting range.

"You have to be able to hit the targets," said Jerry Kokesh, the editor of the International Biathlon Union's official website, adding that the course becomes more dangerous as well. "Uphills are not a problem, but downhills are. ... That can be a serious safety concern."

The first week of the games went by without any major disruptions to the schedule before Sunday's biathlon race was postponed, despite concerns going into the Olympics about the warm climate in Sochi. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said every Winter Olympics normally faces some rescheduling because of the weather, and that Sochi has been relatively unaffected.

"In terms of what's going on there, I think it's actually quite ironic that the biggest issue we've had so far is due to winter fog," Adams said. "Winter sports is very unpredictable. It's a very dynamic field of play. At present, the conditions are good and we are continuing. We haven't had any major complaints up there."

Certainly not from Holland, the snowboarder, who said it was better to wait another day than to compete in poor conditions.

"It's the Olympics, we want to have the best rider win and not have anything screwy," Holland said. "So we'll be back tomorrow and let her roll from there. It's time to drop the hammer and the sickle on this course."

---

AP Sports Writers Will Graves, Jon Krawczynski, Andrew Dampf and Pat Graham contributed to this report.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

IRVING, LEBRON HELP EAST END ITS ALL-STAR SKID

Monday, 17 February 2014 06:43 Published in Sports

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- LeBron James usually has his fun in June, when the Miami Heat have won NBA championships the last two years.

Doesn't mean he's OK with losing in February.

And he certainly won't stand for his team getting picked on.

Three straight times he had left a loser, and he was even more driven for this All-Star game after a half season of his conference getting ridiculed for its mediocrity.

"We've been getting killed a lot this season, talking about the Eastern Conference is pretty bad, it's a two-man race and we're not holding up our end of the bargain," James said. "So it was special to get this win."

Kyrie Irving had 31 points and 14 assists and was voted the MVP, Carmelo Anthony made a record eight 3-pointers and scored 30 points, and the East stopped a three-game losing streak with a 163-155 victory over the West on Sunday night in the highest-scoring All-Star game ever.

"We took this one personal a bit," Irving said.

James had a steal and dunk on the first possession, long before defense usually shows up in the All-Star game.

"We wanted this win," James said. "They beat us the last three years and they had a lot of bragging rights, so to be able to come through being down 18 was huge."

Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin each finished with 38 points, four shy of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star game record, for the West. But the East scored the final 10 points to pull out a game it trailed by 18.

"They started making shots and we didn't get stops and we went a little bit cold," said Griffin, who shot 19 of 23, setting a record for field goals made.

Irving scored 15 points in the fourth quarter. James had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

The 318 points broke the record of 303 set in 1987.

Durant finished with 10 rebounds and six assists, but the West was shut out after his 3-pointer gave it a 155-153 lead with 1:59 left. Indiana's Paul George made three free throws, Anthony nailed his final 3-pointer, and James scored to make it 161-155. George closed it out with two more free throws and finished with 18 points.

"Both teams played extremely well, we just lost," Durant said.

The game that usually doesn't get tight until the final minutes was close throughout the fourth quarter, neither team leading by more than four until the final minute.

Chris Paul had 11 points and 13 assists, and first-time All-Star Stephen Curry had 12 points and 11 assists for the West. But the best point guard on the floor was Irving, who shot 14 of 17 and helped the East ring up 87 points in the second half after it surrendered a record 89 in the first.

In a colorful tribute to New Orleans, players wore sneakers and socks that ranged from green and blue to orange and purple, making the game look like a Mardi Gras parade.

The parade was one of layups and dunks for the West, which scored 44 points in the first quarter and 45 in the second. Griffin had 18 points in the first quarter and Durant had 22 at halftime, both two shy of records set by Glen Rice in 1997.

And there was plenty of music, the rosters and starting lineups introduced around a concert by Pharrell Williams, who was joined by his own All-Stars in Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Snoop Dogg.

Magic Johnson led a band, too, encouraging the All-Stars to join him in singing "Happy Birthday" after the first quarter to Hall of Famer Bill Russell. The NBA's greatest champion was celebrating his 80th.

The All-Stars played better than they sang.

The East finished with 61 percent shooting, needing all sorts of offense after it simply couldn't defend Durant and Griffin.

Durant made six 3-pointers and raised his career scoring average in the All-Star games to a record 30.6 points.

Outside of the ugly sleeved jerseys, it was a good look for the NBA's midseason showcase, bouncing back strongly from an uneven All-Star Saturday night.

The new format of the slam dunk contest Saturday wasn't a hit, but every night is a dunk contest when Griffin is involved.

The guy who once jumped over a car to win a slam dunk contest had eight slams in the first 11 minutes, the backboard often barely done shaking from the last one when he threw down the next.

James Harden started for the West in place of Kobe Bryant, who was elected by the fans but was knocked out by a broken left knee. Bryant said before the game his recovery is "coming slowly" but hopes to be back in another All-Star game.

With Bryant sitting out and longtime regulars Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett not selected, it was a chance for the younger guys to make their mark. The rosters were loaded with players 25 and younger, including first-time starters George, Irving, Stephen Curry and Kevin Love.

The All-Star newcomers also included official Violet Palmer, who became the first female to referee a major U.S. sports league's All-Star game.

---

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/BRIANCMAHONEY

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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