Mercedes-Benz Alabama Plant Votes Against UAW Membership

The vote delivered a setback to union ambitions in the traditionally non-union South.


Workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama voted against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW), delivering a setback to union ambitions in the traditionally non-union South. The vote, held May 13-17, concluded with 56% opposing and 44% supporting unionization.

The election was the second one held at a foreign automaker's U.S. plant this spring. Earlier in May, the UAW recently scored a victory at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, TN, where 73% of voters were in favor of unionization.

UAW President Shawn Fain has been vocal about the discrepancies in wages between workers at American and foreign automakers' facilities, highlighting the higher profit margins of foreign companies compared to the Big Three U.S. automakers.

In a press conference after the election concluded May 17, Fain said the UAW will continue its fight.

“Not the result we wanted today, but I’m very proud of these workers. We keep our heads up and we march on,” Fain said.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversaw the election, said the UAW has five days to file objections to the results, if it chooses. Otherwise, it has to wait a year before it can try to organize another election.

Despite the UAW's optimism and a shift towards targeting non-unionized factories primarily in the South, the Mercedes-Benz vote suggests resistance among workers to the unionization drive.

Mercedes-Benz Group AG is currently under investigation by both the NLRB and in Germany, where the automaker is based, for alleged anti-union conduct at its Alabama plant as workers attempted to organize an election.

The UAW filed charges against Mercedes-Benz Group AG in early April for violating Germany’s new law on global supply chain practices. If found guilty, Mercedes-Benz could face billions in penalties.

The UAW complaint detailed how Mercedes-Benz allegedly intimidated, threatened and even fired Alabama workers in violation of U.S. labor law and International Labor Organization Conventions. The complaint documents seven violations of the German act.

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