April 18, 2013
By Neal Tepel, LaborPress USA
VANCE, Alabama — The United Auto Workers has launched a mayor organizing drive aimed at Alabama's Mercedes-Benz plant as well as Chattanoooga’s Volkswagen factory.
In the past, union organizing at Mercedes was unsuccessful. Key efforts by the UAW in 1999 and again in 2007 failed. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers made an unsuccessful attempt in 2006.
This UAW initiative is being supported by the German union IG Metall which could make the difference. IG's representatives have been in Alabama helping build support for the UAW. IG Metall also is backing the UAW's ongoing campaign at the Chattanooga, Tennessee auto plant operated by Volkswagen. In addition, UAW has had recent success organizing parts suppliers. Five of Mercedes' suppliers in Alabama are unionized.
Presently there is major expansion at the plant with 1500 additional jobs expected. C-Class sedan's will be added to the assembly lines next year and a new SUV in 2015. The plant's 3,000 workers currently build the M-Class and GL-Class SUVs and the R-Class crossover. With the plants expansion, the manufacturer will be relying more on worker cooperation. This should give the UAW an edge in discussions with the car manufacturer.
Organizing anywhere in the South would be a major coup for the UAW, since the South's auto sector remains largely non-union.