Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama vote against union

United Auto Workers (UAW) members and supporters line up outside the ZF Chassis Systems factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, U.S., on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.

Andi Rice | Bloomberg | beautiful images

The National Labor Relations Board said Friday that Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama voted against United Auto Workers union representation.

The result is a blow to the UAW’s organizing efforts a month after the Detroit union won the support of about 4,330 Volkswagen plant workers in Tennessee. Voting begins on Monday and ends on Friday.

Union organizing failed with 56% of the vote, or 2,642 workers, voting against the UAW, according to NLRB, election monitoring agency. According to the results, more than 90% of the 5,075 eligible Mercedes-Benz workers voted in the election.

The NLRB said 51 ballots were challenged and not counted, but they were not decisive in the outcome of the election. There are five blank ballots.

Unions and companies have five business days to file objections to the election, including any allegations of interference, according to to the NLRB. If no objections are made, the election results will be certified and the union will have to wait one year to file for a union election for a similar bargaining unit.

Mercedes-Benz in a statement said company officials “look forward to continuing to work directly with our Team Members to ensure [Mercedes-Benz US International] not only a place they choose but also a place they want to recommend to friends and family.”

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain (right) and UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock (left) lead a march outside Stellantis’ Ram 1500 plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan after the union called for a strike at the factory on October 23, 2023.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

The loss is expected to hurt the UAW in an unprecedented organizing effort launched late last year of 13 non-union automakers in the US after reaching a record deal with Detroit automakers Ford motorbike, General motive And Stellantis. Those agreements include significant pay increases, restored cost-of-living adjustments and other benefits.

UAW President Shawn Fain said that while the Mercedes-Benz vote was clearly not the outcome the union wanted, it was a courageous effort, adding that the vote was “not a failure” but a “bump in the road”.

“While this loss stings, I will tell you this, we will hold our heads high, our heads held high. These workers have nothing to do but be proud of the effort they put in and what they did.” “, he said Friday during a news conference. “We fought the good fight and we will continue to move forward. In the end, the workers here will win.”

The Mercedes-Benz vote is expected to be more challenging for the union than the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, where the union has established a presence after two failed organizing efforts in the past decade and where the union faced less opposition from the automaker.

Stephen Silvia, author of the book “The UAW’s Southern Gamble: Organizing Workers at Foreign-Owned Vehicle Plants,” noted that Mercedes-Benz replaced the plant’s leader several weeks before the vote. He said companies do this regularly and promised to change workers at their facilities in an effort to prevent organizing.

“Companies run anti-union campaigns because they can be effective, and I think this campaign is effective,” said Silvia, a professor at American University in Washington, DC. .. That seemed to be enough to persuade workers to vote against the union.”

Mercedes-Benz Alabama plant votes against unionization

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who was one of six Republican governors condemned the union’s organizing efforts, praising the voting results.

“The workers at Vance have spoken and they have spoken clearly,” she said. Alabama is not Michigan and we are not the UAW Home Sweet Home. We call on the UAW to respect the results of this secret ballot election.”

Workers at Mercedes-Benz’s Tuscaloosa plant, located about 60 miles southwest of Birmingham, have produced more than 4 million vehicles since the plant opened in 1997, including 295,000 vehicles by 2023, according to Go to the factory website.

The Alabama plant currently produces vehicles such as the gasoline-powered GLE and GLS Maybach SUVs as well as the all-electric EQS ​​and EQE SUVs.

The NLRB last week said it continues to process and investigate unfair labor practice charges filed by the UAW against the automakers, including six unfair labor practice charges against the automakers. with Mercedes-Benz since March.

Fain said Friday the union will move forward with those charges. He declined to say whether the union plans to challenge the election results, saying he would “leave that” to the union’s legal team.

The charges allege that Mercedes-Benz “disciplined employees for discussing unionization in the workplace, prohibited the distribution of union literature and paraphernalia, surveilled employees, fired those who pro-union, forcing employees to attend spectator meetings and making statements suggesting that union activity is futile,” the NLRB said.

The coalition has filed other charges against the automakers Honda’s motobike, Hyundai, insight, Rivian, Tesla And Toyota, according to the NLRB.


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