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UAW petitions National Labor Relations Board to rerun Mercedes election

The UAW’s latest filing adds to the list of legal complaints and investigations Mercedes is currently facing.

T-shirts at the UAW Local 112 headquarters read “Future UAW Member” CHANCE PHILLIPS/APR
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After failing to win the union election at the Mercedes plant in Vance by just under 600 votes, the United Auto Workers have filed an objection with the National Labor Relations Board requesting a rerun of the election.

The NLRB’s press secretary, Kayla Blado, explained that the NLRB regional director will review the UAW’s filing and decide whether to hold a hearing. After the possible hearing, the regional director will be able to order an election rerun if she finds it necessary. 

“Over 2,000 Mercedes workers voted yes to win their union after an unprecedented, illegal anti-union campaign waged against them by their employer,” the UAW declared in a statement released Friday. “What that tells us is that in a fair fight, where Mercedes is held accountable to following the law, workers will win their union.”

The statement continued: “Let’s get a vote at Mercedes in Alabama where the company isn’t allowed to fire people, isn’t allowed to intimidate people, and isn’t allowed to break the law and their own corporate code, and let the workers decide.”

A Mercedes spokesperson said in response that the company’s “goal throughout this process was to ensure every eligible Team Member had the opportunity to participate in a fair election.

In a tweet on Friday, UAW communications director Jonah Furman compared the Mercedes election to the earlier Volkswagen election, where the UAW won in a landslide: “Two big German auto plants in the South. One month apart. The law matters.”

The UAW’s recent objections come after the union filed six unfair labor practice charges against Mercedes with the NLRB in the lead up to the election. The union has accused Mercedes of illegally firing and otherwise disciplining pro-union workers.

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In an article for Labor Notes, Mercedes worker Jeremy Kimbrell wrote that “all the weak American labor laws favor the company. It takes six weeks to get to an election after you file, and the company has all the power.”

Kimbrell told APR that the goal is for Mercedes to “not only follow American law which is weak but also follow German law where they’re required to be neutral.”

The German government is currently investigating Mercedes for potentially breaching the country’s “Act on Corporate Due Diligence in Supply Chains,” which requires German companies to respect workers’ right to unionize in their international supply chains.

“Workers accept that a majority of coworkers voted against unionization,” Kimbrell said. “But if the company would’ve remained neutral, not fired the CEO, and not required workers to attend union busting meetings daily during the two weeks prior to the election, we would have voted yes to unionizing by a wide margin.”

While the UAW is requesting that the NLRB rerun the election, Matthew Bruenig, the operator of labor law publication NLRB Edge, said that under a precedent set by Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, the NLRB could theoretically order Mercedes to recognize and begin bargaining with the UAW.

“Under Cemex, if an employer commits unfair labor practices, such as discharging union supporters, during the election period, the NLRB may set aside the election results and order the employer to bargain with the union,” Bruenig explained. He said this has happened “at least three” times since the Cemex precedent was set in August 2023.

“If the NLRB determines that [the six unfair labor practice charges] are true, then it could issue a Cemex bargaining order,” Bruenig told APR.

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A Mercedes spokesperson said that “throughout the election, we worked with the NLRB to adhere to its guidelines and we will continue to do so as we work through this process.

Chance Phillips is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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