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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Mercedes-Benz workers to vote on whether to join the UAW in May

Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Plant, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.    (Highsmith/ZUMA PRESS/TNS)
By Breana Noble The Detroit News

Employees at Mercedes-Benz Group’s assembly and battery plants outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will vote whether to join the United Auto Workers from May 13-17, the National Labor Relations Board said Thursday.

The election will be the Detroit-based union’s second at a foreign-owned assembly plant following the launch of its $40 million organizing campaign at auto and battery plants in the wake of record contracts with the Detroit Three automakers last fall. The first test is underway as workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, currently are voting on whether to unionize. Results from that election are expected late Friday.

The NLRB says it expects to have results on May 17 from the vote at the Mercedes’ facilities in Vance and Woodstock, Alabama. The Vance assembly plant produces SUVs for the current GLE, GLE coupé and GLS model series as well as the all-electric EQS SUV and EQE. It employs approximately 6,100 workers, according to the automaker’s website. The Woodstock battery plant a few miles away provides batteries for the plant’s EQ models.

The vote includes all of Mercedes’ full-time and regular part-time production and maintenance employees at the locations. It doesn’t include employees of contractors, worker-leasing companies or temporary agencies as well as student workers, professional employees, guards, managers and supervisors.

In early April, the UAW said it was filing a petition for the vote at the Mercedes-Benz plant after a “supermajority” of workers signed authorization cards for the union to represent workers at the plant. The union previously said it would file for an election after 70% of workers had done so.

A previous attempt to organize at the Vance plant fizzled in 2014 after the union spent years seeking to gain support.

But leaders are optimistic now that the union is run by leaders who were directly elected by members after a years-long corruption scandal brought about reforms and a U.S. Justice Department consent order; secured contracts for Detroit Three autoworkers that featured major wage increases, reinstated cost-of-living adjustments and improved retirement benefits; and has been part of an upsurge in union support and activity nationally. Some southern governors, however, have pushed back, saying organizing could put jobs in jeopardy.

In additional to Volkswagen and Mercedes, more than 30% of workers at Hyundai Motor Co.’s plant in Montgomery, Alabama, and a Toyota Motor Corp. subsidiary plant in Missouri also have signed union authorization cards.