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Volkswagen Tennessee plant unionizes in landmark win for auto union

Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Friday’s victory at VW offers the labor group much-needed momentum as it tackles other companies. Fain has said he plans to use victories to spawn others.

Volkswagen is “going to be the first domino to fall — I think it’s going to start a chain reaction,” he said Friday. “Once we show the world that it is possible, I think it’s going to open the door for thousands of other workers, tens of thousands of other workers to join in and to get justice on the job.”

The group’s next key test is a Mercedes-Benz Group AG plant in Alabama, which will vote on joining the UAW in May.

That may be a more difficult challenge for the union, with more resistance from management. But even before the victory at VW, Mercedes workers said they expected the campaign there to boost their own efforts.

“As soon as one of the bigger plants decides to commit to that change, there’s no doubt,” said Jeremy Kimbrell, a leader of the union’s organizing committee at the Mercedes plant. “It won’t be one and done.”


Volkswagen employee Lisa Elliott said she hoped the union’s landslide win would be a watershed for organizing elsewhere in the South.

“Who has the right to tell us that we’re not worth what other Americans are making?” Elliott said in an interview at the union’s victory party, wearing a UAW T-shirt left over from one of the union’s past election defeats years earlier at her plant.

Elliott, a member of the union organizing committee, said she’ll be heading to Alabama this weekend to speak to her counterparts from the Mercedes plant. “Every factory in the South is capable of doing what we did.”

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