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Mercedes workers file federal charges with NLRB to stop union busting

Since the initial announcement seeking to join the UAW, workers have stated that Mercedes-Benz has begun retaliating against them for being pro-union.

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Workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance are accusing the company of engaging in union busting and are seeking an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to cease the tactic.

Mercedes-Benz workers at the facility have been engaged in a unionization effort to join the United Auto Workers (UAW). In February, the workers announced that a majority of their fellow co-workers had signed union authorization cards.

Since the initial announcement seeking to join the UAW, workers have stated that Mercedes-Benz has begun retaliating against them for being pro-union. One such worker is Al Ezell, who has stage 4 lung cancer and works in the battery plant. Ezell said he was disciplined for having his phone on the factory floor despite having permission in case his doctor called him about refilling his medicine prescriptions.

“Management called me into the office to discipline me for having my phone on the floor. My manager looked me in the face and told me she didn’t care that I have cancer or that I had permission; she was going to enforce the company’s zero-tolerance policy,” said Ezell. “We’ve never had a zero-tolerance policy for having a phone on the floor. Management is just trying to scare us, but we won’t back down.”

While Ezell was merely scolded for having a phone, Taylor Snipes was instead fired for having his phone on the floor—or at least that was the reason given. Snipes said he opposed watching anti-union videos that Mercedes was forcing him to watch, which led to him being called into a meeting soon after where he was fired. Snipes had also been given permission to have his phone in case he received notifications from his child’s daycare center.

“During the meeting, I told management that it was suspicious that I was being called into the office on the same day that I spoke up in an anti-union meeting,” Snipes said. “My manager said the two had nothing to do with one another but then proceeded to aggressively interrogate me about why I support having a union.”

In February, it was reported that an anti-union meeting was held by Mercedes, during which an executive said, “I don’t believe the UAW can help us.”

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The Department of Labor also revealed in February that Mercedes-Benz violated the rights of two former workers to protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The investigation resulted in the DOL recovering $438,625 in back wages, unpaid damages, and bonuses for the workers.

Lakeisha Carter, another employee in the battery plant, said that the Mercedes management had retaliated against her for supporting the union. But Carter refuses to be intimidated.

“Since we started organizing, I’ve submitted my FMLA leave with management multiple times, and every time they said they lost the paperwork,” Carter said. “I’m an outspoken union supporter, and Mercedes illegally disciplined me for medical absences that were clearly covered by my FMLA requests. It’s just plain retaliation from Mercedes, but I’m not going to be intimidated.”

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

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