Mercedes-Benz Alabama Workers File Federal Charges Alleging Union-Busting

Employees say the automaker is retaliating against those pushing to join the UAW.

Mercedes-Benz released this file photo of workers at the Alabama facility beginning production of the EQS SUV in August 2022.

Workers at Mercedes-Benz’s largest U.S. plant in Vance, AL, have filed multiple federal charges with the National Labor Relations Board in response to the company’s alleged aggressive and illegal union-busting. Workers are requesting an injunction to put an end to what they say is retaliation against workers for standing up for their rights at work.

In February, Mercedes-Benz workers announced a majority of their coworkers at the plant had signed union authorization cards. Every Mercedes-Benz plant in the world is unionized, except the company’s two plants in the U.S.

“Since we started organizing, I put in my FMLA leave with management multiple times and every time they said they lost the paperwork,” said Lakeisha Carter, an employee in the battery plant. “I’m an outspoken union supporter and Mercedes illegally disciplined me for medical absences that were clearly covered by my FMLA requests. It’s just plain retaliation from Mercedes, but I’m not going to be intimidated.”

In February, the U.S. Department of Labor recovered $438,625 in back wages, unpaid bonuses and damages for two former workers at the plant after management violated their rights to protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Al Ezell, a public union supporter in the Mercedes-Benz battery plant, has stage 4 lung cancer, and supply chain issues have made it difficult for him to receive his medication. Ezell was given permission to have his phone on the factory floor in case his doctor called him about refilling his prescription.

“Management called me into the office to discipline me for having my phone on the floor. My manager looked me in the face and told me she didn’t care that I have cancer or that I had permission, she was going to enforce the company’s zero tolerance policy,” said Ezell. “We’ve never had a zero-tolerance policy for having a phone on the floor. Management is just trying to scare us, but we won’t back down.”

“Mercedes is forcing me and my coworkers to attend meetings and watch anti-union videos that are full of lies,” said Taylor Snipes, another worker in the battery plant. “I finally had enough and asked my group leader if I had to watch the video and he treated me like a child, telling me I either had to watch the video or put my head down on the desk.”

Later that day, Snipes said he was called into a meeting with Mercedes management and immediately fired for having his phone on the factory floor. Snipes had previously been given permission to have his phone on the floor so he could check for messages from his child’s day care center.

“During the meeting, I told management that it was suspicious that I was being called into the office on the same day that I spoke up in anti-union meeting,” said Snipes. “My manager said the two had nothing to do with one another, but then proceeded to aggressively interrogate me about why I support having a union.”

Mercedes-Benz workers are part of the national movement of non-union autoworkers organizing to join the UAW in the wake of the historic Stand Up Strike victory at the Big Three auto companies. More than 10,000 non-union autoworkers have signed union cards in recent months, with public campaigns launched at Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen in Chattanooga, TN, Hyundai in Montgomery, AL, and Toyota in Troy, MO. Workers at more than two dozen other facilities are also actively organizing. 

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