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In Relay Race to Organize the South, Volkswagen Workers Pass the Baton to Mercedes Workers

By Luis Feliz Leon - Labor Notes, April 30, 2024

Michael Göbel, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, stepped down from his post yesterday, according to a video message that workers were shown.

Göbel had groused in an April captive-audience meeting about a worker’s claim that Mercedes had come for the “Alabama discount”: low wages. His departure is another win for Mercedes-Benz workers, who already scored pay bumps and an end to wage tiers—and they haven’t even voted on the union yet.

The company and Alabama politicians are ramping up their anti-union campaign as an election draws near. The 5,200 Mercedes workers at a factory complex and electric battery plant outside Tuscaloosa will vote May 13-16 on whether to join the United Auto Workers, with a vote count May 17.

They’re following close on the heels of Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who notched a historic victory April 19—the first auto plant election win for the UAW in the South since the 1940s.

The VW vote was a blowout: 2,628 yes to 985 no, with 84 percent turnout. The National Labor Relations Board certified the results April 30, meaning VW is legally required to begin bargaining with the union.

With US Workers on the March, Southern States Take Aim at Unions

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, April 26, 2024

Since six Southern Republican governors last week showed "how scared they are" of the United Auto Workers' U.S. organizing drive, Tennessee Volkswagen employees have voted to join the UAW while GOP policymakers across the region have ramped up attacks on unions.

The UAW launched "the largest organizing drive in modern American history" after securing improved contracts last year with a strike targeting the Big Three automakers—General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. The ongoing campaign led to the "landslide" victory in Chattanooga last week, which union president Shawn Fain pointed to as proof that "you can't win in the South" isn't true.

The Tennessee win "is breaking the brains of Republicans in that region. They're truly astonished that workers might not trust their corporate overlords with their working conditions, pay, health, and retirement," Thom Hartmann wrote in a Friday opinion piece.

"The problem for Republicans is that unions represent a form of democracy in the workplace, and the GOP hates democracy as a matter of principle," he argued. "Republicans appear committed to politically dying on a number of hills that time has passed by. Their commitment to gutting voting rolls and restricting voting rights, their obsession with women’s reproductive abilities, and their hatred of regulations and democracy in the workplace are increasingly seen by average American voters as out-of-touch and out-of-date."

Southern Autoworkers aren’t Listening to the GOP’s BS Any More

By Tomm Hartmann - The Hartmann Report, April 25, 2024

The UAW’s successful unionization effort last week at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee — the first successful unionization effort at a car factory in the South since the 1940s — is breaking the brains of Republicans in that region. They’re truly astonished that workers might not trust their corporate overlords with their working conditions, pay, health, and retirement.

Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee — along with Governors Kay Ivey (AL), Brian Kemp (GA), Tate Reeves (MS), Henry McMaster (SC), and Greg Abbott (TX) — issued a joint statement last Tuesday condemning the vote:

“We the Governors of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas are highly concerned about the unionization campaign driven by misinformation and scare tactics that the UAW has brought into our states. …

“In America, we respect our workforce and we do not need to pay a third party to tell us who can pick up a box or flip a switch. No one wants to hear this, but it’s the ugly reality. … The experience in our states is when employees have a direct relationship with their employers, that makes for a more positive working environment. They can advocate for themselves and what is important to them without outside influence. …

“[W]e have serious reservations that the UAW leadership can represent our values. They proudly call themselves democratic socialists and seem more focused on helping President Biden get reelected than on the autoworker jobs being cut at plants they already represent.”

Southern autoworkers, though, aren’t listening to the GOP’s BS any more: a unionization vote is set for the week of May 13th at a Mercedes plant in Alabama and more than half the workers there have already signed a card indicating their desire for union representation.

The problem for Republicans is that unions represent a form of democracy in the workplace, and the GOP hates democracy as a matter of principle. It’s why conservatives have opposed every effort to expand voting rights from the Jim Crow era, through fighting woman’s suffrage, to opposing voting rights legislation from 1965 to this day.

Corporations, on the other hand, are not democracies: they’re organized along the lines of feudal-era kingdoms with a big boss (CEO), a small society of Lords and Ladies (senior executives and the board of directors), and a large number of serfs whose continued employment is up to the whims of the Boss and the Lords and Ladies.

Labor Organizer Jane McAlevey on UAW’s Astounding Victory in VW Tennessee & Her Fight Against Cancer

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