UAW loses unionization vote at Alabama Mercedes factory

a3b6a1b0 96df 11ea b7e7 dfdf0e874481 copy

VANCE, Alabama – The United Auto Workers suffered a disappointing loss at a Mercedes-Benz factory in Alabama on Friday, a setback for the union’s plans to achieve broader gains in the U.S. South after winning a deal at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant in April.

With votes still being tallied, the “no” votes had passed the critical threshold ensuring a loss for the union, according to a tally posted online by the UAW. About 5,100 workers were eligible to vote.

The UAW had hoped to continue a run that includes the overwhelming VW win in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as well as a lucrative new contract at six Daimler Truck facilities across the South. Daimler Truck was spun off from what is now Mercedes.

A win at Mercedes would have marked the second foreign-owned automaker in the U.S. South to join the UAW, but instead the union will need to redouble efforts to win over workers in a region that has previously been inhospitable to unions. Widening its reach beyond the Detroit automakers is critical for the UAW to maintain its influence within the industry.

VW workers twice voted against the UAW before last month’s win, and Nissan workers at a plant in Mississippi rejected the UAW by a wide margin in 2017. In 2021, workers at an warehouse in Alabama voted against forming a union by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

The loss complicates the story of how the UAW can market its influence, especially in the South, but it likely will not deal a significant blow to the rest of the UAW’s organizing efforts, labor experts said.

“It’s easy to overstate the momentum issue,” said Stephen Silvia, a professor at American University who has published on the UAW’s past organizing campaigns in the South.

“Ultimately it comes down to what is going on in each individual workplace,” he added, emphasizing how just as a win at Volkswagen did not guarantee a victory at Mercedes, this loss does not guarantee future defeats.

The company made its feelings clear in the run-up. Signs urging workers to vote “no” were hung around the plant, and the company hired anti-union firms to speak with workers about the potential risks of joining the UAW, according to workers, as well as photos and audio reviewed by Reuters.

Mercedes rejected claims it prevented union organizing efforts in Alabama. A spokeswoman said the company respects employee unionizing efforts and is ensuring every worker has a chance to vote by secret ballot while having the information needed to make an informed choice.

Political opposition was staunch in this campaign, too. Six U.S. governors, including Alabama’s Kay Ivey, signed a letter asking workers to reject the UAW. They said unionization would stunt the auto industry’s growth across the South.

Workers on both sides had expected the vote to be close. Mercedes employee Kay Finklea, who is pro-UAW, said the company’s messaging, including a recent anti-union push with a local pastor, had swayed some to vote “no.”

Clinching a win at Mercedes had been a critical step in UAW President Shawn Fain’s $40 million mission to organize more than a dozen automakers across the nation, including Toyota and Tesla. It also would have allowed the union to add to its dwindling ranks.

Reporting by Nora Eckert in Vance, Alabama. Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top