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Even pro-union employees at Alabama’s Mercedes plant want the UAW to go away

Mercedes-Benz's plant in Vance, Ala. (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith)
Mercedes-Benz’s plant in Vance, Ala. (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith)

Pro-union workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. have grown weary of the unionization efforts of the United Auto Workers (UAW), according to a new report.

A vocal group of pro-union Mercedes employees have asked the UAW to stop their campaign to unionize the plant because it has failed to gain enough traction.

“This has gone on for two-and-half years, and people are burnt out,” said Kirk Garner, a long-time Mercedes employee and union supporter. “It’s over.”

Alabama is a right to work state, meaning that employers can’t require union membership as a condition of employment. However, if the UAW had been successful in unionizing Mercedes, all of the plant’s workers would, by requirement of contract, be represented by the UAW, not just those who are union members. Many anti-union employees have pointed out that this caveat would strip them of their right not to be a member of a union.

Republican leaders and economic developers have often pointed to Alabama’s status as a right-to-work state as one of the top reasons the state has attracted several high-profile companies in recent years. Airbus and Remington are just two recent examples of major manufacturers who cited Alabama’s right-to-work laws as a key point in their decision to locate in the state.

But unions have persisted in trying to infiltrate Alabama as part of a broader strategy to increase their influence in the Southeastern U.S.

Conservatives across the country cheered earlier this year when workers at a Chattanooga, Tenn. Volkswagen plant voted against UAW’s unionization effort by a narrow margin, 712-626. The vote was close, but some observers said it sent a resounding message that the South will not bend to the will of big labor bosses.

Back in Alabama, some Mercedes employees are still pushing for unionization, they just want to do it without the UAW. However, the AFL-CIO has granted the UAW exclusive rights to try to unionize the Mercedes plant, so no other union is allowed to get involved.

“They’re in denial right now,” said Jim Spitzley, another pro-union Mercedes employee. “It’s all about the image with the UAW, and it’s not about the workers.”

This is the UAW’s third failed attempt to unionize Mercedes’ Alabama manufacturing facility.


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