Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama vote against UAW union membership

1 month ago

United Auto Workers (UAW) members and supporters on a picket line outside the ZF Chassis Systems plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, US, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

Andi Rice | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama have voted against union representation by the United Auto Workers, the Labor Relations Board said Friday.

The results are a blow to the UAW's organizing efforts a month after the Detroit union won an organizing drive of roughly 4,330 Volkswagen plant workers in Tennessee. Voting started Monday and ended Friday.

Union organizing failed with 56% of the vote, or 2,642 workers, against the UAW, according to the NLRB, which oversaw the election. More than 90% of the 5,075 eligible Mercedes-Benz workers voted in the election, according to the results.

The NLRB said 51 ballots were challenged and not counted, but they aren't determinative to the outcome of the election. There were five void ballots. 

The union and company have five business days to file objections to the election, including any alleged interference, according to the NLRB. If no objections are filed, the election result will be certified, and the union will have to wait one year to file for a union election for a similar bargaining unit.

The loss is expected to hurt the UAW in an unprecedented organizing drive launched late last year of 13 non-union automakers in the U.S. after securing record contracts with Detroit automakers Ford Motor, General Motors and Stellantis. Those agreements included significant wage increase, reinstatement of cost-of-living adjustments and other benefits.

The Mercedes-Benz vote was expected to be more challenging for the union than the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, where the union had already established a presence after two failed organizing drives in the past decade.

Workers at Mercedes-Benz's Tuscaloosa plant, located about 60 miles southwest of Birmingham, have produced more than 4 million vehicles since the plant opened in 1997, including 295,000 vehicles in 2023, according to the plant's website.

The Alabama plant currently produces vehicles such as the gas-powered GLE and GLS Maybach SUVs as well as the all-electric EQS and EQE SUVs.

The NLRB last week said it continues to process and investigate open unfair labor practice charges filed by the UAW against automakers, including six unfair labor practice charges against Mercedes-Benz since March.

The charges allege that Mercedes-Benz has "disciplined employees for discussing unionization at work, prohibited distribution of union materials and paraphernalia, surveilled employees, discharged union supporters, forced employees to attend captive audience meetings, and made statements suggesting that union activity is futile," the NLRB said.

The union has filed other charges against automakers Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Rivian, Tesla and Toyota, according to the NLRB.

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