The United Auto Workers (UAW) began its targeted strike against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis back in mid-September, and roughly six weeks later, The Blue Oval was the first to reach a tentative agreement on a new contract with the union. GM and Stellantis followed suit just a few days later, and shortly thereafter, UAW Ford workers ratified the deal, which is expected to cost The Blue Oval a substantial amount of money. However, the UAW isn’t content to just celebrate this victory for the next four-plus years, as instead, it plans to go after non-union U.S. plants, as Ford Authority previously reported. In response, some of those companies – Volkswagen, Hyundai, Nissan, and Honda – have since given their workers raises to prevent that from happening, but now, Mercedes-Benz is clearly in the crosshairs of the union.
According to the UAW, more than 30 percent of workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama have thus far signed authorization cards, which is the first step in unionizing that particular facility. The UAW reached this same threshold at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant last month as well. Mercedes builds a variety of models at its Tuscaloosa plant, including the GLE, GLS, EQS SUV, and EQE.
“In the past, people didn’t know if we had a pathway forward here,” said Jeremy Kimbrell, a measurement machine operator who has worked at Mercedes since 1999. “Now everybody’s coming together and seeing what the pathway is, and it’s through the union. When we get our union in here, I think people will once again look at Mercedes and say, it’s not just another job, it’s a career job. It’s a job where generations will want to come and work. And that’ll spread out to the suppliers and then to the broader area.”
“When Mercedes opened up, it was the shining three-point star of Alabama. That star has gone out,” said Jim Spitzley, a team leader at Mercedes. “I’ve been here 27 years and the morale has been steady in the downward direction. Even when I started, I rotated shifts for 15 years, so I missed a lot of time with my kids when they were little. I’m on straight days now, but when a new model year comes out I can still work 12 out of 13 weekends. We have to have a voice to turn things around. The union is our voice. That’s how the new people coming in are going to be treated fairly. That’s how we end the two tiers.”