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Is Nick Saban pro-union or anti-union?

Saban is expected to speak to workers employed at the Mercedes Benz facility in Vance amid a unionization campaign.

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.
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Former University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban is expected to speak to workers employed at the Mercedes Benz facility in Vance today. However, because the visit is coming during a unionization campaign by the workers, it is unclear whether Saban will deliver a message supporting the workers or opposing unionization.

Flyer of mandatory meeting involving Saban

Just this week workers at the facility announced that a majority of their co-workers signed union cards in support of joining the United Auto Workers (UAW).

Prior to that announcement, it was reported that during a mandatory meeting at the facility Michael Göbel, CEO of Mercedes Benz US International Inc., spoke and delivered several anti-union remarks including his disbelief that “the UAW can help us do better.”

Because these mandatory meetings now appear to be union-busting tactics, Saban’s visit is all the more intriguing. The legendary college football coach has an incalculable status, influence and approval amongst fans in the state, so any comments Saban makes that are pro-union or anti-union could have some measure of impact on the unionization campaign by the Mercedes workers.

Saban himself owns several Mercedes Benz car dealerships across the country through his company Dream Motor Group. One facility is located in Hoover and most recently he acquired two Mercedes dealerships in Florida for $700 million.

However, Saban has also made comments previously supporting unionization at least for college football saying, “Unionize it, make it like the NFL.”

The mandatory meetings by Mercedes have also coincided with a concerted effort from business leaders and business aligned politicians to defeat the efforts being made by the workers to unionize.

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On Tuesday, the same day as the announcement of majority support to unionize, Gov. Kay Ivey spoke to the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce stating that these efforts were a “threat” to Alabama’s economy. 

Ivey has spoken out against the unionization drive at Mercedes since the initial announcement in January. Ivey has continued to claim these actions are merely because of an out of state actor in the form of the UAW. However, workers have consistently stated they are seeking to unionize on their own terms due to stagnant wages, poor work conditions and seeking better quality of life. 

Now as this labor struggle continues it will be interesting to watch different powerful entities such as Saban and see where they land on a major continuing development in the state. 

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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