United Automobile Workers

May 16 2024

Mercedes-Benz Under Investigation by German Government for Illegally Violating Workers Rights at Alabama Plant

The German government is officially investigating Mercedes-Benz Group AG for the company’s illegal anti-union conduct at the Mercedez-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama. Germany's Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control announced the formal investigation yesterday. 

Voting is currently underway at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where a supermajority of workers have come out in support of the union and have been subjected to a brutal, months-long campaign of illegal intimidation by management and outside anti-union consultants hired by the company.  

“Autoworkers in Alabama should have the same rights and be treated with the same respect as autoworkers in Germany,” said Jeremy Kimbrell, who has worked at the plant since 1999. “My coworkers and I are grateful to the German government for taking our testimonies and the evidence we have provided seriously and taking the first steps to hold the lawless, reckless Mercedes managers in Alabama accountable for their action.” 

The UAW filed charges against Mercedes-Benz Group AG in early April for violating Germany’s new law on global supply chain practices. 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. Mercedes-Benz could face billions in penalties, including significant fines and bans on government contracts. 

The Alabama plant is operated by Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI), a subsidiary of Stuttgart-based Mercedes-Benz Group AG. The UAW complaint details how MBUSI has intimidated, threatened and even fired Alabama workers in violation of U.S. labor law and International Labor Organization Conventions. The complaint documents seven violations of the German act, including:

  • The firing of a union supporter with Stage 4 cancer. The employee had been allowed to have his cellphone with him at work so he could receive updates on the availability of his scarce chemo drug. But a supervisor who has intimidated union supporters claimed there was a zero-tolerance policy on cellphones and had him fired.
  • A January letter from MBUSI CEO Michael Göbel to employees that attempted to chill union activity and violated their freedom of association. The letter was filled with stock phrases used by anti-union consultants designed to stoke fear, uncertainty, and division.
  • A mandatory plant-wide meeting Göbel held in February to discourage workers from unionizing. At this meeting, Göbel told workers “I don’t believe the UAW can help us to be better” and that they “shouldn’t have to pay union dues that generate millions of dollars per year for an organization where you have no transparency where that money is used.”
  • Another mandatory plant-wide meeting in February that featured former University of Alabama football Coach Nick Saban. Before and during the meeting, MBUSI supervisors attempted to stop union supporters from passing out UAW hats.

Despite the company’s anti-union campaign, a supermajority of MBUSI workers publicly support the union and workers are confident that they will win their union when ballots are tallied on Friday, May 17th. They will become the second Southern auto plant to vote to join the UAW in less than 30 days, and the second of dozens of non-union auto plants that are actively organizing across the country. 

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Contact Information

Jonah Furman

Feldman Strategies, team@feldmanstrategies.com