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UAW Looking To Build on VW Victory With Vote at Mercedes-Benz’s Vance Plant, Daimler Truck Also In Crosshairs

by | April 22, 2024

At Volkswagen, the United Auto Workers has succeeded organizing workers in the South for the first time and the union is now preparing for a vote at Mercedes-Benz in Alabama while pushing for a new, richer contract at Daimler Truck.

VW union image 3

A rally outside the VW plant in Chattanooga, TN.

Following its historic victory at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, the United Auto Workers is getting ready for the final phase of an organizing drive at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama.

This second phase will be a key moment for the UAW and will be a test to see if the initial success at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant can create a domino effect across other plants in the southern U.S.

Contract fight at Daimler Truck looms

Mercedes-Benz Plant Workers Vance Alabama

Workers at the Mercedes plant in Alabama assemble a new EV. The plant is expected to be the second to have a vote on the UAW organizing drive.

The UAW is also targeting other businesses in the South this week as a strike deadline for 7,000 employees at Daimler Truck plants in the Southeastern corner of the United States approaches. The UAW’s existing contract expires at 12:01 am on Friday, April 26, and covers workers at six different plants in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.

In 2021, Daimler AG split into two companies and Daimler Truck and Mercedes-Benz Cars now operate independently, although they share some research and development on electric and autonomous vehicles.

Last month, Daimler Truck announced record results for 2023 as profits increased 23% to $6 billion and executive predicted strong results for 2024 as the company plans to spend $2.1 billion on stock buybacks and intends to increase stock dividends by 46%.

The current pact was signed six years ago when the UAW was mired in scandal. UAW President Shawn Fain, who took over just over a year ago, has said Daimler’s hefty profits mean it can grant plant workers substantially more in wages and benefits this time around.

Workers building trucks and buses for Daimler are facing declining real wages and job security even as the company posts record profits. Daimler Truck’s profits have increased by 90% while workers’ buying power has fallen 13%, according to the UAW’s analysts.

Success in the bargaining at Daimler could be used to power up other union’s organizing drives in the South. The UAW originally succeeded in organizing the Daimler Truck plants back in the 1990s with assistance from the German metalworker’s union, IG Metall.

UAW uses tactics deployed in fight with Detroit’s automakers

Fain talks Stellantis deal

UAW Pres. Shawn Fain wants to organize all the foreign-owned auto plants, as well as Tesla.

The UAW, adapting the tactics it used successfully during the strikes against Detroit’s three automakers, just released “Leftover Money,” a new video detailing Daimler Truck’s record profits and their intentions to reward Wall Street, not the workers, with the spoils. It features testimony from workers reviewing the eyepopping profits and their demands to no longer play “second fiddle” when it comes to getting their fair share and raising standards.

“We make the product. We make the profits. And it’s time to make things right. Our wages have fallen far behind. Our job security is on the chopping block. Our families and communities deserve better. And we’ve sacrificed long enough. We’re done playing second fiddle. It’s time for Daimler to invest in the American worker. The money is there. The cause is just. And the time is now,” workers in the video on the UAW web site noted.

“When I first started here, I only needed to work one job. Now you need to work two jobs to make ends meet,” said Clavonne Davis, a worker at the Daimler plant in Cleveland, NC. “It is our time to fight. It is our time to stand up and fight for what we deserve.”

“We signed this contract six years ago,” said Freightliner worker Derek Smith. “In the last six years, things have changed in our economy. Inflation has gone through the roof. Groceries are more expensive. Eating out is a luxury.”

“We insist on living wages for everyone. We insist on affordable and accessible health care benefits,” said Thomas Built Buses worker, Jennifer Moore. Roughly, 96% of the Daimler workers have voted to authorize a strike.

UAW calls for a vote at Mercedes-Benz plant

Mercedes-Benz Plant Vance Alabama

The Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama.

The negotiations at Daimler Truck are expected to reach a climax prior to the vote at Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, which is set for May 13 -17.

Analysts expect the union to have a more difficult time in Alabama than in Chattanooga where the union had come close to winning during sharply contested elections in 2014 and 2019.

“It is important to note that it took three votes at VW and expectations should not be for an overwhelming majority all at once,” observed Arthur Wheaton, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University, “Organizing is done one person at a time. It may take additional votes to build majority,” Wheaton noted.

However, the UAW also has deployed a new weapon to help minimize management influence on the upcoming vote by using a new German law to challenge the conduct of management of the Mercedes-Benz U.S. subsidiary in court in Germany.

More UAW Stories

UAW Achieves Representation Victory At VW’s Chattanooga Assembly Plant, Historic Vote Could Prompt More Plants To Join

UAW Endorses Biden for Second Term as President

UAW Chief Fain’s Record Contracts Impacting Entire Industry

New German law comes into play

Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV - Vance Plant

The UAW is hoping to use a newly passed German law to force Mercedes to allow a vote.

In its German lawsuit, the UAW argued Mercedes-Benz’s aggressive anti-union campaign against U.S. autoworkers in Alabama is a “clear human rights violation” under the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains. If found guilty, Mercedes-Benz faces billions in penalties, including significant fines and bans on government contracts.

The UAW’s charges have been described an important early test of the act, which took effect on January 1, 2023, and applies to German-headquartered firms with more than 1,000 employees. The UAW is the first American union to file charges under the act, which is also known by its German acronym LkSG, according to the UAW.

The new German law sets standards for global supply chains that German-based firms must adhere to and prohibits companies from disregarding workers’ rights to form trade unions, the UAW noted.

In the U.S., the UAW also is asking the NLRB to enjoin or prohibit Mercedes-Benz from using an anti-union campaign to vote against UAW representation.


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