NLRB To Conduct Hearing on Alleged Worker Intimidation at Mercedes-Benz Plant in Alabama

by J.Emerson
nlrb to conduct hearing on alleged worker intimidation at mercedes benz plant in

The National Labor Relations Board will conduct a hearing to discuss allegations regarding management conduct at Mercedes-Benz’s Vance, Alabama plant. The reports filed with the Board allege that Mercedes violated worker’s rights by forbidding discussion of unions during working hours, as well as threatening termination of employees that solicited for the union.

The UAW accuses Mercedes of suppressing efforts by employees to organize, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Mercedes claims it has pursued a policy of neutrality regarding the unionization of its workforce. The NLRB dismissed one complaint filed against the company in August of last year. But two other complaints filed in the fall were accepted by the NLRB as possible violations of labor law. The hearing, to be conducted on April 7, will allow both sides to present their case before a judge. The recommendation of that judge will influence the final ruling by the NLRB. A ruling against the complaint would strengthen the position of Mercedes and the union’s political opponents, but if the NLRB finds a violation of the law, it could be a major coup for the UAW.

This is the latest development in an ongoing campaign to unionize the plant, which builds the M, R, and GL Class near Tuscaloosa. Pro-union employees cite stagnating wages and reduced benefits as part of their reason for considering unionization. This leaflet issued by the UAW organizing committee alleges that since 2007, Mercedes has slashed healthcare plans for retirees. Supposedly, employees hired after 2009 will not be eligible for any retiree health benefits whatsoever. Employees have also voiced concern over the increased use of temporary workers at the plant. Still others point to a general decline in the relationship between labor and management, with complaints about inconsistent application of company policy. Others dismiss the need for a union, pointing out that high-paying jobs were scarce in the area before Mercedes arrived. They fear that the UAW may damage Mercedes’ recent run of success in the US. This includes an expansion of the plant to build the new C-Class later this year.

Although it has not yet succeeded in organizing the main Mercedes plant, the UAW has had a measure of success with Mercedes’ suppliers. The parts makers Faurecia, Inteva, ZF, and Johnson Controls in nearby areas have been organized for several years. It’s possible that the UAW may be able to leverage this success with plant workers in Vance. Even so, the unionization of a major transplant automaker in a right-to-work state remains a daunting task.

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  • MoDo MoDo on Jan 29, 2014

    Ahhh Tuscaloosa - the plant that's famous for its German plant managers that have taken on the southern accent. Apparently you have to hear it to believe it....

  • MBella MBella on Jan 29, 2014

    I have never talked to anyone that has worked at the Vance plant so I can't directly comment for them. I can however speak for the plenty of Mercedes-Benz employees that I have dealt with around here and they all seem to be very happy with the pay structure and benefit packages they have. I would be surprised if the workers at the Vance plant felt differently.

    • See 4 previous
    • Pch101 Pch101 on Jan 30, 2014

      @Xeranar "You look at the level of education and income. Then you look at the industry average and find the discrepancies." The good thing about manufacturing work is that it provides the opportunity for those who don't have academic backgrounds to make a decent living. If their educational levels are at the lower end of the scale (and it wouldn't surprise me if they were), then that's actually a benefit, as that would be an indication that the jobs are pulling up people who don't have formal educations and who would probably earn less otherwise. If we reach a point that we've decided that a master's degree is a prerequisite for working on a line, then we will be doing something very wrong.

  • SPPPP This rings oh so very hollow. To me, it sounds like the powers that be at Ford don't know which end is up, and therefore had to invent a new corporate position to serve as "bad guy" for layoffs and eventual scapegoat if (when) the quality problems continue.
  • Art Vandelay Tasos eats $#!t and puffs peters
  • Kwik_Shift Imagine having trying to prove that the temporary loss of steering contributed to your plunging off a cliff or careening through a schoolyard?
  • Inside Looking Out How much costs 25 y.o. Mercedes S class with 200K miles?
  • VoGhost Matthew, It's transformation, not transition. This is a common title in corporate America.