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Mercedes Workers in Alabama Reject Union

Mercedes Workers in Alabama Reject Union


Workers at two Mercedes-Benz factories close to Tuscaloosa, Ala., voted on Friday towards becoming a member of the United Automobile Workers, a shocking blow to the union’s marketing campaign to realize floor within the South, the place it has historically been weak.

The defeat got here after Kay Ivey, Alabama’s governor, and different Republican leaders argued {that a} pro-union vote would choke off the funding that has reworked the state into a significant auto producer. Hyundai and Honda even have massive factories in Alabama that the U.A.W. is making an attempt to arrange.

The vote took on nationwide significance as a check of whether or not the U.A.W. may construct on a string of current victories and achieve floor in a state whose elected officers have been hostile to organized labor. The union has mentioned it desires to arrange each vehicle manufacturing unit within the United States, increasing its membership to incorporate the staff of firms like Toyota and Tesla.

But the loss on the Mercedes vegetation will nearly absolutely decelerate the union’s marketing campaign and possibly drive it to do extra spadework to safe the help of employees earlier than in search of to carry elections at different auto vegetation. Union leaders will need to spend time determining how finest to counter the messages and ways of native lawmakers and firm executives.

“It hurts to lose, little doubt,” Elizabeth Shuler, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., mentioned on Friday. “But we see it not as a loss, however a brief setback. Workers will persevere it doesn’t matter what it takes.”

Mercedes employees voted 56 % to 44 % towards becoming a member of the union, based on the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election. Close to 4,700 ballots had been forged, representing a big majority of the 5,075 staff who had been eligible to vote.

Auto executives and conservative lawmakers are prone to carefully research the vote at Mercedes to determine the most effective approaches to fend off the U.A.W. and different unions in future contests and to discourage union campaigns from the get-go.

The South has develop into an necessary battleground. States like Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are attracting a lot of the billions of {dollars} that automakers and suppliers are investing in electrical automobile and battery factories. The U.A.W. desires to characterize employees at these factories.

Mercedes produces sport utility autos at a manufacturing unit in Vance, Ala., and battery packs for electrical autos at a plant in close by Woodstock. Polling had been underway all week on the two factories.

“We thank all crew members who requested questions, engaged in discussions and, in the end, made their voices heard on this necessary difficulty,” the corporate mentioned in an announcement on Friday.

In a marketing campaign performed largely by phrase of mouth, union activists argued that along with higher pay and advantages, the U.A.W. would shield Mercedes employees from abrupt modifications of their schedules and lengthy shifts, together with on weekends.

If it wasn’t for us constructing these vehicles, you wouldn’t be placing the cash that you simply’re placing in your pockets,” mentioned Kay Finklea, who works in high quality management at Mercedes and campaigned for the union. “So deal with us with dignity, deal with us with respect and pay us.”

But activists acknowledged that many employees who had been sad with working circumstances at Mercedes had been additionally reluctant to affix the union, swayed by warnings from firm executives and politicians that membership would result in onerous dues and lack of management over their jobs.

Mercedes tried onerous to dam the union. Last month, in an obvious try to deal with worker complaints, the corporate shook up native administration, appointing Federico Kochlowski as chief govt of the German firm’s U.S. unit.

Mr. Kochlowski, who has labored at Mercedes for about 20 years in numerous manufacturing positions in China, Mexico and the United States, acknowledged that there have been issues on the Alabama vegetation and promised to make enhancements. “I perceive that many issues are usually not OK,” he mentioned in a video posted by Mercedes on-line. “Give me a shot.”

Union activists famous that Mr. Kochlowski had already been a member of high administration and interpreted his appointment as a last-minute try to fend off the U.A.W.

The U.A.W. has filed six prices of unfair labor practices towards Mercedes with the labor relations board, saying the corporate disciplined staff for discussing unionization at work, prevented organizers from distributing union supplies, performed surveillance of employees and fired employees who supported the union.

Mercedes denies the claims.

Previous makes an attempt by the U.A.W. to characterize employees at Mercedes and different auto producers within the South have failed. But the U.A.W. is stronger than it has been in years after profitable a unionization vote at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee final month after shedding two earlier elections at that plant. The union additionally received hefty pay raises final 12 months for employees at Ford Motor, General Motors and Stellantis, the father or mother firm of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram.

Mercedes employees who help becoming a member of the U.A.W. mentioned they might hold preventing.

“Mercedes goes to be unionized,” Robert Lett, who works within the Woodstock battery manufacturing unit and campaigned for the union, mentioned forward of the vote. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Friday or sooner or later. There’s an excessive amount of frustration there for us to not ultimately unionize.”

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