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Majority of workers at Mercedes plant in Alabama sign UAW authorization cards

Breana Noble, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

A majority of workers at Mercedes-Benz's largest plant in the United States have signed authorization cards for United Auto Workers representation, the union said on Tuesday.

The milestone comes less than seven weeks since the Detroit-based union hit the 30% milestone at the plant in Vance, Alabama, outside Tuscaloosa. Securing a majority of the autoworkers' backing means the union will hold a rally to drum up further support. Once 70% of workers at a plant sign authorization cards, the UAW would demand the company recognize its representation, or else pursue a National Labor Relations Board election.

Securing representation is critical to the UAW's leverage and ambitions to secure gains such as the return of pensions from the Detroit Three automakers, UAW President Shawn Fain has said. The union hasn't hit the 70% mark at any transplant location since launching its campaign to organize foreign-owned and EV startup plants after securing record national contracts last year with the Detroit Three. The Mercedes plant is the second to hit the 50% threshold after workers at Volkswagen AG's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, did so earlier this month.

The Mercedes-Benz plant employs approximately 6,300 workers, according to the automaker's website. It produces SUVs: the GLE, GLE coupé and GLS model series, including the Mercedes-Maybach GLS. It also assembles the all-electric EQS SUV and EQE. A previous attempt to organize the plant fizzled in 2014 after the union spent years seeking to gain support.

The milestone comes after the UAW last week said it was committing $40 million through 2026 to organize non-union auto and battery workers. In response to that announcement, Mercedes-Benz highlighted its 25-year history in Alabama.

 

"Central to our success is our positive team culture that includes an open-door policy," according to the statement sent by spokesperson Andrea Berg. "MBUSI has a proven record of competitively compensating Team Members and providing many additional benefits. We believe open and direct communication with our Team Members is the best path forward to ensure continued success."

In a promotional video about reaching the milestone, Mercedes worker Jeremy Kimbrell mentions insufficient raises, a two-tier wage system and treatment of temporary workers as reasons to seek union representation.

“There comes a time when enough is enough,” Kimbrell says in the video. “Now is that time. We know what the company, what the politicians, and what their multi-millionaire buddies will say. They’ll say now is not the right time. Or that this is not the right way. But here’s the thing. This is our decision. It’s our life. It’s our community. These are our families. It’s up to us.”

In addition to the Mercedes and Volkswagen plants, the UAW has hit 30% support at Hyundai Motor Co.'s plant in Montgomery, Alabama. In total, more than 10,000 autoworkers have signed authorization cards at 14 manufacturers.


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