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Mercedes workers in Alabama to file for union vote this week, UAW leader says

Published 04/02/2024, 02:29 PM
Updated 04/02/2024, 10:28 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain speaks to United Auto Workers members prior to U.S. President Joe Biden's speech at the UAW's Community Action Program (CAP) legislative conference in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2024. REUTERS/L

By Nora Eckert

DETROIT (Reuters) -Factory workers at Mercedes Benz (ETR:MBGn)'s assembly plant in Alabama are moving forward with efforts to join the United Auto Workers (UAW), and they plan to file a petition as soon as this week, a union leader said on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Reuters cited three people familiar with the matter saying employees at the SUV plant in Vance, Alabama, plan to file paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a formal election to join the UAW. The date of an actual vote is not yet certain.

The union's Region 8 Director Tim Smith said he had been with UAW President Shawn Fain in Alabama two weeks ago talking to Mercedes workers who were getting ready to petition this week for an union election.

"We're proud of them and they're going to win also," Smith said on Tuesday at a North Carolina rally to kick off contract negotiations with Daimler (OTC:MBGAF) Truck.

A union spokesman declined to discuss a Mercedes vote timeframe, but the UAW said in late February that a majority of about 6,000 workers at the plant had signed cards to join the union.

"(The company is) pushing back and the politicians are getting involved," Fain said at the North Carolina rally, adding that workers were "fed up with getting screwed."

Mercedes did not respond immediately to the comments by Smith and Fain.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Mercedes spokesperson said the company had "a proven record of competitively compensating team members and providing many additional benefits" and that it preferred to maintain direct communication with employees.

"Following the UAW's nationwide campaign to increase its membership, (Mercedes) wants to ensure its team members make an informed decision," the spokesperson said.

BEYOND THE DETROIT THREE

Fain is leading an unprecedented organizing effort for the 88-year-old UAW, endeavoring to unionize more than a dozen automakers, including Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), across the U.S.

The union has failed several times over the last two decades to organize U.S. facilities owned by Volkswagen (ETR:VOWG_p) and Nissan (OTC:NSANY), but Fain hopes to succeed after reaching new labor deals last fall with the Detroit Three automakers: General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F) and Chrysler parent Stellantis (NYSE:STLA).

Fain, who took on the head job at the UAW a year ago, says this time will be different, citing a more emboldened U.S. labor force that in part fueled the historic wins in Detroit.

A vote at Mercedes would follow a similar push at Volkswagen's assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where voting on whether to join the UAW is scheduled to end on April 19.

An NLRB spokesman said the agency has received several unfair labor practice charges filed by the UAW against Mercedes, but has not yet received a petition for an election at the Alabama plant.

The Mercedes spokesperson said the company had not interfered with or retaliated against any team member seeking union representation.

For the UAW, expanding beyond the Detroit Three is the goal, starting with Volkswagen and Mercedes.

"When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won't just be with the Big Three, but with the Big Five or Big Six," Fain said in November.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain speaks to United Auto Workers members prior to U.S. President Joe Biden's speech at the UAW's Community Action Program (CAP) legislative conference in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

The union has failed twice before to organize the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee. Efforts at other nonunion plants are ongoing and are expected to accelerate if the union wins early votes, the sources said.

A successful organizing campaign outside of Detroit would reverse declines in membership, which has dwindled from a high of 1.5 million UAW members in the 1970s to 370,000 last year, its lowest level since 2009.

Latest comments

The unions are the ones that will bankrupt and destroy automaker jobs in the US. Carmakers will lose all competitive edge to the rest of the world. China will dominate the rest of the world. You have to be a brain scientist to see that. Good job Biden, just to secure some votes.
1. The cost to pay the people assembling the cars is pretty small percentage. 2. US cars have sucked for decades vs Japanese and German cars…poor quality caused the bankruptcies of the US automakers 15 years ago…and they were bailed out to keep people employed. 3. China already dominates manufacturing infrastructure…25 years ago this wasnt the case. 4. Biden hasn’t really done anything bad…or good. Or Trump…to be fair. Most of the current problems were caused 30+ years ago. Take your pick for who to blame…plenty to go around.
ABB Ltd. (ABBNY) is the largest maker of automation equipment in the world and second largest maker of robots in the world. The faster UAW wages rise, the faster ABB's sales will rise. UAW taking votes for the workers to be laid off.
Most jobs which could be automated via robots…were done 30+ years ago.
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