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Mercedes-Benz Workers in Alabama File for Union Election

April 5, 2024
The UAW has never before had the supermajority needed to file at the plant.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

The United Autoworkers today filed a petition with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, near Tuscaloosa.

This marks the second upcoming UAW election in the South, where, for multiple reasons, gaining enough support from workers for unionization has been an uphill battle.

The UAW has prioritized organizing foreign automaker plants in the U.S. South since last fall, after it won big gains for autoworkers at the Detroit 3—Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. Efforts at the Chattanooga, Tennessee plant were the first to gain traction, and a union election is scheduled there from April 17 to 19.

In a UAW video announcing the Alabama election, workers spoke of wages that have not risen with corporate profits, safety concerns and being required to take last-minute overtime shifts.

Mercedes-Benz US said in a statement today that it “fully respects our Team Members’ choice whether to unionize and we look forward to participating in the election process to ensure everyTeam Member has a chance to cast their own secret-ballot vote, as well as having access to the information necessary to make an informed choice.”

As the organizing effort gained steam in Alabama, Mercedes raised worker wages by $2 an hour

Robert Chiaravalli, a Michigan labor attorney representing Tier One auto suppliers, warned of autoworker dissatisfaction in an interview with IndustryWeek last fall. “They have worked incredible loads of overtime,” he said. “And they just need a break. Oftentimes in these negotiations, along with wages and benefits is “How do we get out of mandatory overtime?”

State Lawmakers Blast VW Union Drive

In Tennessee, state and local leaders this week threatened to withdraw subsidies for the Volkswagen plant if workers unionized.

Large subsidies—and threat of their removal—have historically been a real barrier to union organizing in the South—particularly at previous union drives in Chattanooga, Steve Silvia, professor at American University and author of The UAW’s Southern Gamble, told IndustryWeek last year.

“This has led the southern political establishment, which is almost exclusively Republican, to take the approach that, ‘We didn’t pay $300 billion, half a billion dollars to invite the UAW here to sponsor candidates to run against us.’ So they put a lot of pressure on the companies when it comes to unionization.” Silvia said.

The Mercedes-Benz Vance, Alabama, plant has been in operation for almost 30 years, and was the automaker’s first major plant outside Germany. It has approximately 6,100 employees. About two-thirds of the plant’s production is exported, contributing to Alabama being the top auto-exporting state in the U.S. last year. Mercedes SUVs, including electric SUVs, are produced at the plant, with EV batteries manufactured at a Mercedes-Benz battery factory nearby.


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