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UAW: Alabama workers at Mercedes Benz want a vote on unionization

United Auto Workers Lance Williams from Lansing, Ill., left, and Brandi Funches from Hammond, Ind., picket outside the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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AP
United Auto Workers Lance Williams from Lansing, Ill., left, and Brandi Funches from Hammond, Ind., picket outside the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The United Autoworkers Union says a supermajority at Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz North American car factory wants to organize. The UAW, in a press release, announced that workers have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a vote to join the union. The over 5,000 workers at the Mercedes plant outside Tuscaloosa are the second group of Southern autoworkers to call for a union election in less than three weeks. Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee filed for their election in mid-March. They’ll have their vote to join the UAW in mid April.

Alabama’s move comes after a majority of Mercedes-Benz workers signed union cards. That’s the first step in the process of organizing with the UAW. The factory near Tuscaloosa has overt six thousand employees.

The UAW claims Mercedes management is running an aggressive anti-union campaign. In its release, the union says Mercedes workers hope to be voting in their union election by early May. The NLRB is expected to quickly set the date for the election. The UAW has filed federal labor charges against Mercedes for illegal union busting, as well as charges in a German court for labor violations that could net billions in penalties for the German automaker.

Mercedes rejects UAW’s assertions of “union busting.” Last month, the car company told AL.com “We look forward to presenting our case to the NLRB,” Mercedes-Benz stated. “Additionally, MBUSI (Mercedes Benz U.S. International) rejects claims that it has denied any Team Member leave for their union affiliation. Following the UAW’s nationwide campaign to increase its membership, MBUSI wants to ensure its team members make an informed decision.”

The campaign to unionize auto plants in Alabama follows what’s called the “Stand Up Strike” at the Big Three auto companies. The UAW pacts with major Detroit automakers include 25% pay raises by the time the contracts end in April of 2028. With cost-of-living increases, workers will see about 33% in raises for a top assembly wage of $42 per hour, plus annual profit sharing.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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