UAW Announces Union Campaign at Mercedes-Benz Plant in Alabama
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Author: Michael Sainato
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Over 30% of workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have signed union authorization cards, the United Auto Workers (UAW) announced on Tuesday.

The news is another significant boost to the UAW’s plans to unionize non-union auto workers throughout the US after securing historic contracts for workers at the big three US automakers last year.

Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, reached the 30% mark in collecting union authorization cards. At Mercedes-Benz the UAW drive hit the 30% mark just six weeks after launching the organizing campaign.

“In the past, people didn’t know if we had a pathway forward here,” said Jeremy Kimbrell, a measurement machine operator who has worked at Mercedes since 1999. “Now everybody’s coming together and seeing what the pathway is, and it’s through the union. When we get our union in here, I think people will once again look at Mercedes and say: ‘It’s not just another job, it’s a career job. It’s a job where generations will want to come and work.’ And that’ll spread out to the suppliers and then to the broader area.

As it did in its fight with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the UAW is highlighting the huge profits automakers are reporting even as workers struggle with inflation and stagnant wages.

UAW noted that Mercedes-Benz has made $156bn in profits over the last decade, with a 200% jump over the past three years. The union also claimed vehicle prices of Mercedes have increased 3% from 2020 to 2023, while wages for Mercedes workers have been stagnant.

The UAW also claimed that Mercedes-Benz spent $1.9bn on stock buybacks from March to November 2023 instead of sharing profits with workers.

Workers at the Alabama plant produce the Mercedes GLE, GLE coupé and GLS model series and the all-electric EQS SUV and EQE vehicle models. Over 6,000 workers are employed at the plant.

The union noted the 30% threshold is the first step in their union organizing efforts. If 50% sign up, the union will publicly rally and at 70% the UAW will demand recognition or call on the National Labor Relations Board to organize a vote.

“I feel like we’re living to work when we should be working to live,” said Moesha Chandler, an assembly team member who started working at Mercedes in January 2023. “I started as a temp making $17.50 an hour. I’m full-time now, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. If I have a shopping spree, it’s for my work clothes, not fun clothes. If we had the union, we’d feel more protected, more at ease. We wouldn’t feel like a gazelle to a lion.”

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