Workers at Mercedes-Benz's Alabama Plant Shut Down UAW Efforts - For Now

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

The United Autoworkers Union (UAW) scored a big win with the Tennessee-based VW plant’s vote to organize, but it’s not infallible. Last week, workers at Mercedes-Benz’s facility in Alabama voted against unionizing, with 56 percent saying they were against it. While the situation isn’t a total defeat for the UAW, it will have to wait a year to try again, and America’s political climate could have shifted dramatically by then.

The UAW had an uphill battle in the Alabama plant, as Mercedes jumped into the fight in the “no” camp. Workers were told that a vote for the union could endanger their jobs and others in the state, and Alabama’s deep red political map likely didn’t help the UAW’s cause. The governor recently approved a bill that gives her the power to remove incentives from companies that recognize unions, and several businesses also lobbied against the effort.

Though workers voted against the union, they might still benefit from its work with other automakers. Some non-union companies voluntarily raised pay for employees after the UAW’s victory against Detroit’s Big Three last year, but there’s nothing forcing better salaries at the Mercedes plant.

A defeat in this vote doesn’t necessarily mean the UAW is dead in the water. The closeness of the two sides suggests that, without MB’s meddling and political pressure, it could succeed in the next round. That said, Alabama is probably the least likely state to flip blue anytime soon, so the union could be facing another fight in 2025.

[Images: James R. Martin via Shutterstock]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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3 of 43 comments
  • Daniel J Daniel J on May 22, 2024

    Alabama is a right to work state so I'd be interested in how this plays out. If a plant in Alabama unionized, there are many workers who's still oppose joining and can work.

    • 3-On-The-Tree 3-On-The-Tree on May 22, 2024

      I don’t have any union experience myself due to being a military retiree. My father worked for the Washington State Dept of Natural Resources as a wild land firefighter and it was a closed shop. He very much hated the fact that you are forced to pay union dues just to hold the job. Maybe due to the fact that he as also a military retiree, Navy CMD Master Chief. His friends who were supervisors and higher management were all satisfied with their jobs. I can’t say either way if this was due to the union but it seemed more of a formality to my father and friends.

  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on May 22, 2024

    " The governor recently approved a bill that gives her the power to remove incentives from companies that recognize unions"

    Political thumb on the scales...

    It's the MAGArat politicians in the State that fight unions and spend money to propagandize that a union is just one step from resurrecting Joseph Stalin as their next Governor.

    Pitiful. Still using the same phony arguments from McCarthy in the 1950's that continues to lock us out of normalizing relations with Cuba.

  • Lynchenstein @EBFlex - All ICEs are zero-emission until you start them up. Except my mom's old 95 Accord, that used to emit oil onto the ground quite a lot.
  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂