Blows off the UAW when Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama vote against the union

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Workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama refused to join the United Auto Workers union on Friday, a major setback in Labor’s campaign to organize auto-owned automakers. foreigners throughout the American South.

The National Labor Relations Board said there were 2,642 votes against union representation, compared with 2,045 votes in favor. The factory assembles luxury sports utility vehicles, including electric and super-luxury Maybach models.

The defeat stands out as a reversal for the UAW after landslide victory at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga last month. Union leaders had hoped that vote marked the beginning of a wave of labor increases across the American south.

The Detroit-based union, which represents more than 400,000 active workers, said it hopes to take advantage of the record 25% pay increase it won for employees of Ford, General Motors and Stellantis after last year’s strike.

UAW President Shawn Fain said Friday the union will continue organizing efforts at the Vance, Alabama plant. “This is not fatal. This is a bump in the road. We will return to Vance and I think we will have a different result in the future,” he said.

Mercedes said it hopes its employees continue to see the company as “not only a place of choice but also a place they can recommend to friends and family.”

Lawmakers across the South have used generous subsidies and the promise of low-cost, union-free labor to attract foreign automakers to their states since the 1970. Union says so-called “Alabama rebates” helped Mercedes increased profits by 200% in the past three years.

The region’s “right to work” laws give workers the right to refuse to pay union dues, making it more difficult for labor organizations to support themselves financially.

Union organizers face much greater opposition at Mercedes than at Volkswagen. After the union announced 70% of the facility’s 5,075 eligible employees had signed union cards, Mercedes replaced the plant’s chief executive officer, scrapping an unpopular two-tiered pay plan in an attempt to Pay longer-serving employees more and implement an 11% pay increase.

A double-sided sign hung on the factory’s fence urged workers to simply “vote” outside, but “vote no” inside. The image of the sign was spread on social networks.

Stephen Silvia, a professor at American University who specializes in labor relations, calls this “a classic anti-union campaign.”

Mercedes previously said it respects employees’ right to organize and is providing workers with the information they need to make informed choices.

Local officials also fought the UAW. Kay Ivey of Alabama, a Republican, was one of six governors who signed a letter calling the UAW “special interests seeking to infiltrate our state and threaten jobs and values ​​we live by” before the VW election last month. Mercedes was one of the first auto factories in Alabama and is widely credited with revitalizing the state’s manufacturing industry, said University of Alabama professor Michael Innis-Jiménez.

“They think this is the best place to do business because you can pay workers less,” Innis-Jiménez said. “I think the politicians here are afraid of that [if the union wins] Companies will stop participating.”

In March, Alabama passed a state law that complicates union organizing by denying subsidies to companies that voluntarily recognize a new union.

Despite the losses, the UAW will likely continue mobilize workers’ organizations At foreign-owned auto plants across the country, Silvia said, but could slow down the pace of filing for representative elections. The alliance’s next targets could be a Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama, and a Toyota plant in suburban St Louis, Missouri, Silvia added.


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