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Voting begins at Tuscaloosa’s Mercedes Benz plant on possibly joining the UAW

Mercedes employees Austin Brooks, David Johnston and Jacob Ryan attend a rally in Tuscaloosa, Ala., May 5, 2024. A month after workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee overwhelmingly voted to unionize, the United Auto Workers is aiming for a key victory at Mercedes-Benz in Alabama. More than 5,000 workers at the facility in Vance and nearby battery plant will vote next week on whether to join the UAW. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)
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Mercedes employees Austin Brooks, David Johnston and Jacob Ryan attend a rally in Tuscaloosa, Ala., May 5, 2024. A month after workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee overwhelmingly voted to unionize, the United Auto Workers is aiming for a key victory at Mercedes-Benz in Alabama. More than 5,000 workers at the facility in Vance and nearby battery plant will vote next week on whether to join the UAW. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

Rank and file workers at Mercedes Benz North American plant near Tuscaloosa began voting today on whether to join the United Auto Workers at Mercedes factories near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to vote in May on United Auto Workers union. The National Labor Relations Board said that the vote will take place from now until Friday. The Mercedes Benz plant and a nearby factory that makes batteries for the European company’s vehicles are both participating in the ballot.

The vote will be the second in the union's drive to organize workers at more than a dozen nonunion auto-making plants largely in southern states. Workers at Volkswagen's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted by more than a seventy percent margin to join the UAW. The union says it’s pushing to organize 150,000 workers at more than a dozen nonunion auto manufacturing plants largely in Southern states. The organizing effort comes after the UAW won big pay raises after striking Detroit's three automakers last fall.

Along with anti-union social media, Southern governors are telling autoworkers that voting for a union will put their jobs in jeopardy. Prior to the last month’s Chattanooga vote, the governors issued a statement saying that they have worked to bring good-paying jobs to their states.

"We are seeing in the fallout of the Detroit Three strike with those automakers rethinking investments and cutting jobs," the statement said. "Putting businesses in our states in that position is the last thing we want to do."

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee joined Alabama leader Kay Ivey, Georgia’s Brian Kemp, Mississippi’s Tate Reeves, South Carolina’s Henry McMaster and Texas’ Greg Abbott in signing on to the statement The governors said they want to continue to grow manufacturing in their states, but a successful union drive will "stop this growth in its tracks, to the detriment of American workers."

The UAW previous pacts with 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, or more than $87,000 per year, plus thousands in annual profit sharing.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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