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UAW files objection over Mercedes vote, claims management intimidation

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain speaks to reporters in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Friday, May 17, 2024, after workers at two Alabama Mercedes-Benz factories voted overwhelmingly against joining the UAW. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)
Kim Chandler/AP
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain speaks to reporters in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Friday, May 17, 2024, after workers at two Alabama Mercedes-Benz factories voted overwhelmingly against joining the UAW. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

The United Auto Workers accused Mercedes of interfering in a union election at two Alabama factories by intimidating and coercing workers into voting no. A week after Mercedes workers voted against joining the union, the labor group filed an objection with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a new vote. The union accused the company of engaging in a "relentless antiunion campaign marked with unlawful discipline, unlawful captive audience meetings, and a general goal of coercing and intimidating employees."

"Over 2,000 Mercedes workers voted yes to win their union after an unprecedented, illegal anti-union campaign waged against them by their employer. What that tells us is that in a fair fight, where Mercedes is held accountable to following the law, workers will win their union," the UAW said in a statement.

"All these workers ever wanted was a fair shot at having a voice on the job and a say in their working conditions. And that's what we're asking for here. Let's get a vote at Mercedes in Alabama where the company isn't allowed to fire people, isn't allowed to intimidate people, and isn't allowed to break the law and their own corporate code, and let the workers decide."

A Mercedes-Benz spokesperson emailed a company statement that said more than 90% of team members voted in the election, and a "majority indicated they are not interested in being represented by the UAW for purposes of collective bargaining."

"Our goal throughout this process was to ensure every eligible Team Member had the opportunity to participate in a fair election. We sincerely hoped the UAW would respect our Team Members' decision. Throughout the election, we worked with the NLRB to adhere to its guidelines and we will continue to do so as we work through this process," the statement read.

Employees at Mercedes battery and assembly plants near Tuscaloosa voted 56% against the union. The result handed the union a setback in its efforts to unionize workers at auto plants in the Deep South. The defeat in Alabama came a month after the UAW scored a breakthrough victory at Volkswagen's 4,300-worker assembly factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The union filing said that four pro-union employees were fired, and the company allowed anti-union employees to "solicit support during work hours but forbade pro-union employees from soliciting support during work hours."

The company also required workers to attend anti-union captive-audience meetings and displayed anti-union propaganda while prohibiting the distribution of union materials and paraphernalia in non-work areas, according to the objection.

The union said the company, or its representatives, polled workers about union support, suggested voting in the union would be futile, targeted union supporters with drug tests and "engaged in conduct which deliberately sought to exacerbate racial feelings by irrelevant and inflammatory appeals to racial prejudice."

A spokeswoman for the National Labor Relations Board confirmed an objection had been filed. Kayla Blado, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, said the regional director will review the objections and could order a hearing. If it is determined that the employer's conduct affected the election, a new election could be ordered, she said.

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