May 26, 2024

A Mercedes-Benz GLE-model SUV

A Mercedes-Benz GLE-model SUV
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

The German government is investigating Mercedes-Benz for union-busting an American unionization drive, the United Auto Workers (UAW) announced Thursday. The union has been campaigning to represent workers at the automaker’s Vance, Alabama plant. Employees at the location are currently voting on the matter, and their ballots will be tallied tomorrow.

“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,” the UAW said in a statement. Representatives from Mercedes-Benz USA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union drive, which has seen a majority of workers in the facility sign cards indicating their interest in representation, has been fraught. The UAW filed charges last month in German court against the Stuttgart-based automaker for violating labor standards with its anti-union communications and actions. One Mercedes worker, who has stage 4 lung cancer, says he was fired for violating company rules under thin evidence as retaliation for his union support.

The union election comes after a successful union drive at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee in April. The effort is part of a broader push to organize workers in non-union U.S. auto plants on the back of successful strikes against the “Big Three” American carmakers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis that saw workers at those companies get big wage and benefit gains.

The UAW is especially eager to establish itself in the South, which has long elected officials hostile to organized labor. Last month, the governors of six Southern states released a statement saying that they have “a responsibility to our constituents to speak up when we see special interests looking to come into our state and threaten our jobs and the values we live by.”

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