Mercedes joins growing list of UAW organizing targets

Mercedes joins growing list of UAW organizing targets
Andrew Thurlow
Automotive News | April 15, 2013 – 4:10 pm EST
— UPDATED: 4/15/13 5:10 pm ET – adds Mercedes statement
The UAW, which has been trying more aggressively to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the United States over the past two years, is taking another shot at organizing the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala.

The union hopes that support from the German trade union IG Metall will aid in the effort to represent some 3,000 workers now working at the plant, the UAW said on a Web site it launched to support the organizing drive.

The plant, which builds M-class and R-class crossovers and GL-class SUVs, is preparing to add the C-class sedan next year and a new crossover in 2015. The new vehicles combined are expected to add 1,400 jobs to the plant, AL.com, a joint Web site for several Alabama newspapers, reported. Advertising for the additional jobs has begun, AL.com reported.

Attempts by the UAW and other unions to organize at Mercedes-Benz are nothing new. Efforts by the UAW in 1999-2000 and in 2007 were unsuccessful.

IG Metall, whose representatives have moved into an office near the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa County, also supports the UAW’s ongoing efforts to organize workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Last month, Automotive News reported that VW executives may release a works council plan in May or June, and if the proposal wins support from VW’s managing board, formal negotiations with a labor union could begin as soon as the second half of the year.

Union representatives as well as actor Danny Glover also met with workers from Nissan plants in Canton, Miss., and Nashville — where the automaker’s sales, marketing and manufacturing headquarters for the Americas region are — to raise union interest among plant workers.

On its Web site, uawvance.com, the UAW says it aims to “create a dynamic and unique local union in Tuscaloosa that becomes a model for labor relations in the 21st Century.” UAW materials have been distributed to workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, AL.com reported.

Messages left with the UAW were not returned.

Mercedes released a statement today that said:

“We have always and will continue to remain neutral on the topic of unionization at MBUSI. The decision on the union should be up to our Team Members and through an election process. In our 16 years of operations, MBUSI has created a team-oriented work environment, which fosters open communication, competitive wages and benefits, direct access to management and teamwork.”

During the first quarter, Mercedes’ U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 13 percent from the year-ago period to 73,021 vehicles. Total U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 6 percent during the quarter from the same quarter last year.

The UAW had 382,513 members at the end of 2012, according to the union’s annual regulatory filing Thursday with the U.S. Labor Department. That is flat from 2011 and low by historic standards for a union that had 701,818 members as recently as 2001 and more than 1.5 million members at its peak in 1979.

Gabe Nelson and Lindsay Chappell contributed to this report.

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