Mercedes workers in Alabama to file for union vote this week, UAW leader says

DETROIT, (Reuters) – Factory workers at Mercedes Benz’s assembly plant in Alabama are moving forward with efforts to join the United Auto Workers (UAW), and they plan to file a petition as soon as this week, a union leader said on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Reuters cited three people familiar with the matter saying employees at the SUV plant in Vance, Alabama, plan to file paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a formal election to join the UAW. The date of an actual vote is not yet certain.

The union’s Region 8 Director Tim Smith said he had been with UAW President Shawn Fain in Alabama two weeks ago talking to Mercedes workers who were getting ready to petition this week for an union election.

“We’re proud of them and they’re going to win also,” Smith said on Tuesday at a North Carolina rally to kick off contract negotiations with Daimler Truck.

A union spokesman declined to discuss a Mercedes vote timeframe, but the UAW said in late February that a majority of about 6,000 workers at the plant had signed cards to join the union.

“(The company is) pushing back and the politicians are getting involved,” Fain said at the North Carolina rally, adding that workers were “fed up with getting screwed.”

Mercedes did not respond immediately to the comments by Smith and Fain.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Mercedes spokesperson said the company had “a proven record of competitively compensating team members and providing many additional benefits” and that it preferred to maintain direct communication with employees.

“Following the UAW’s nationwide campaign to increase its membership, (Mercedes) wants to ensure its team members make an informed decision,” the spokesperson said.


Fain is leading an unprecedented organizing effort for the 88-year-old UAW, endeavoring to unionize more than a dozen automakers, including Tesla , across the U.S.

The union has failed several times over the last two decades to organize U.S. facilities owned by Volkswagen and Nissan, but Fain hopes to succeed after reaching new labor deals last fall with the Detroit Three automakers: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis.

Fain, who took on the head job at the UAW a year ago, says this time will be different, citing a more emboldened U.S. labor force that in part fueled the historic wins in Detroit.

A vote at Mercedes would follow a similar push at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where voting on whether to join the UAW is scheduled to end on April 19.

An NLRB spokesman said the agency has received several unfair labor practice charges filed by the UAW against Mercedes, but has not yet received a petition for an election at the Alabama plant.

The Mercedes spokesperson said the company had not interfered with or retaliated against any team member seeking union representation.

For the UAW, expanding beyond the Detroit Three is the goal, starting with Volkswagen and Mercedes.

“When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big Three, but with the Big Five or Big Six,” Fain said in November.

The union has failed twice before to organize the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee. Efforts at other nonunion plants are ongoing and are expected to accelerate if the union wins early votes, the sources said.

A successful organizing campaign outside of Detroit would reverse declines in membership, which has dwindled from a high of 1.5 million UAW members in the 1970s to 370,000 last year, its lowest level since 2009.

Reporting by Nora Eckert in Detroit; Additional reporting by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Ben Klayman, Matthew Lewis and Jamie Freed