Alabama Mercedes-Benz Plant Rejects UAW, Supports Right-to-Work

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

In November 2023, feeling their oats after successful contract negotiations with the Big Three automakers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) decided that it would simultaneously attempt to push its organizing efforts to a dozen non-union auto factories, a majority of them in the South. After succeeding in converting a Volkswagon plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the UAW set its sights on two Mercedes-Benz plants near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Background: While Praising UAW Win at Tennessee VW Plant, Biden Hits Letter by GOP Governors Opposing Vote

 After much promotion, propaganda, and a stand-off with Alabama lawmakers, the Mercedes-Benz autoworkers made their voices heard through secret ballot. The UAW was weighed in the balance, and found wanting:

Mercedes-Benz workers in Vance voted not to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) in an election held this week.

According to unofficial results compiled by the UAW, 56% of workers voted against joining the union in a National Labor Relations Board private election that began on Monday and ended Friday morning. 

2,045 workers voted for joining and 2,642 workers voted against joining UAW.

"The workers in Vance have spoken, and they have spoken clearly! Alabama is not Michigan, and we are not the Sweet Home to the UAW. We urge the UAW to respect the results of this secret ballot election," Gov. Kay Ivey said. "I am proud Alabama is home to some of the greatest automakers in the world, and I am grateful to these companies who provide good pay, benefits and opportunities to many men and women across our state. As I have said, automotive manufacturing is one of Alabama's crown jewel industries and number one in the country, and we are committed to keeping it that way."


Governor Meemaw had also spoken. On Monday, Ivey signed into law Senate Bill 231 (SB231) that removes economic development incentives offered by the state from companies that voluntarily recognize any union without first allowing its employees to vote in a private ballot election:

“To further protect our Alabama jobs, this morning, I was proud to sign Senate Bill 231 into law. This bill, brought forward by North Alabama’s own Senator Arthur Orr, will require any business that receives incentives to hold an election by secret ballot. Y’all, this is only right so that every vote is counted. My message is clear: I am standing up for Alabamians and protecting our jobs.”

Ivey and some Alabama businesses were heavily opposed to UAW's foisting itself upon the state. Apparently, so were the Mercedes-Benz workers, some of whom felt the union promises were a lot of smoke, but no brisket:

Worker Melissa Howell, who opposed joining the union, said she and other employees realized that the UAW was making lofty promises that it couldn’t put in writing, including pay of $40 per hour, pensions and better benefits.

“They kept repeating over and over, ‘You’re not going to lose anything. We’re going to start with what you have right now,’” Howell said. “That’s when we really started letting people know, ‘Hey, hold up. It’s all negotiable.’”


 While UAW may have succeeded in Tennessee, in 2022, the state enshrined right-to-work in its Constitution through Amendment 1, which the citizens resoundingly voted in. This makes decertification of the UAW infinitely easier. With the UAW track record, and failing electric vehicles sales (which were the major incentive of those 2023 contracts), decertification may be inevitable. A Nissan parts manufacturing plant in New Jersey recently voted to decertify from UAW after only four years under their management.


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