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On to Alabama

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The Union army is about to invade Alabama like it should have done in the Civil War.

In 2014, the United Auto Workers abandoned a publicized push to unionize at Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa County.

The union did so at the request of the employees.

Pro-union workers, burned out by a campaign that was going nowhere, were waving a white flag.

But Thursday the National Labor Relations Board announced voting will take place May 13 and 17 on whether workers at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International will join the United Auto Workers union. Vote totals are expected May 17.

That’s after the most successful, and one of the fastest campaigns, the union has ever had, signing a supermajority of the plant’s more than 6,000 employees in less than five months.

Alabama has only been producing automobiles for less than thirty years, but the state is already the leading exporter of vehicles in the U.S. Yet at the same time, it is grappling with the first serious foray by organized labor into this major sector of its economy.

What happened?

For Jeremy Kimbrell, a Mercedes-Benz worker involved in the UAW push, it’s simple.

“Everybody knows what a Mercedes is,” he said. “Why should a worker, just because he lives in Alabama, be paid less and be treated worse? That’s old timey thinking.”

I see little reason to think this isn’t going to succeed. The UAW win in Chattanooga wasn’t close. It was absolutely overwhelming. This is the next factory in the logical strategy to pick off the German automakers before moving onto the Japanese. These are high-end cars and the workers aren’t paid much, or at least they weren’t until the automakers suddenly raised their wages after the UAW strike last year. Huh, I wonder why they did that………

The real significance here isn’t only that the UAW finally won in the South or that these factories are going to turn the tide of union membership back up to its past levels. It’s that the South is now open territory for unions. The potential here is enormous. And I think the Alabama Mercedes plant will provide even more evidence for this next month.

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