United Automobile Workers

Jan 10 2024

Mercedes-Benz Workers in Alabama Launch Public Campaign to Join the UAW as Organizing Momentum Builds in Non-union Auto Plants Across the U.S.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., went public today with their campaign to join the UAW. Over 30% of the plant’s workforce have signed union authorization cards, a major milestone on their path to form a union with the UAW.

A video announcing the campaign can be accessed at uaw.org/mercedes-al and the media is invited to use the footage.

The launch at Mercedes in Alabama comes just one month after Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., reached the 30% threshold and went public with their drive to join the UAW. It comes just six weeks after non-union autoworkers across the nation started organizing to join the UAW. For more information on that campaign, visit uaw.org/join.

“In the past, people didn’t know if we had a pathway forward here,” said Jeremy Kimbrell, a measurement machine operator who has worked at Mercedes since 1999. “Now everybody’s coming together and seeing what the pathway is, and it’s through the union. When we get our union in here, I think people will once again look at Mercedes and say, it’s not just another job, it’s a career job. It’s a job where generations will want to come and work. And that’ll spread out to the suppliers and then to the broader area.”

Mercedes made $156 billion in total profits over the last decade. In the last three years their profits grew 200% over the previous three years. From 2020 to 2023, the average price of Mercedes vehicles in the United States jumped 31% even as pay for Mercedes’ U.S. workers stagnated. Workers at the Tuscaloosa plant build the Mercedes GLE, GLE coupé and GLS model series as well as the all-electric EQS SUV and EQE.

“Back in the day, you could get by on the pay here,” said Derrick Todd, an online quality team member who’s been at Mercedes since 2005. “We topped out in two years. Now some people go through a temp agency for years before they even get on the pay scale. Year after year, the company says they’ve got record profits and sales, but our pay doesn’t keep up. It’s time to set things right. It’s time that we had our voice heard.”

The growing movement among non-union autoworkers across the country builds off the success of the UAW’s Stand Up Strike at the Big Three, where around 50,000 workers struck for over 40 days to win record contracts at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. Non-union automakers have hurried to make marginal improvements to pay packages, but remain far short of the wages, benefits, and working conditions at the unionized automakers.

“I feel like we’re living to work when we should be working to live,” said Moesha Chandler, an assembly team member who began working at Mercedes in January 2023. “I started as a temp making $17.50 an hour. I’m full time now, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. If I have a shopping spree, it’s for my work clothes, not fun clothes. If we had the union, we’d feel more protected, more at ease. We wouldn’t feel like a gazelle to a lion.”

“When Mercedes opened up, it was the shining three-point star of Alabama. That star has gone out,” said Jim Spitzley, a team leader at Mercedes. “I’ve been here 27 years and the morale has been steady in the downward direction. Even when I started, I rotated shifts for 15 years, so I missed a lot of time with my kids when they were little. I’m on straight days now, but when a new model year comes out I can still work 12 out of 13 weekends. We have to have a voice to turn things around. The union is our voice. That’s how the new people coming in are going to be treated fairly. That’s how we end the two tiers.” 

“I’ve seen so many changes, not for the better,” said Kay Finklea, a quality inspector who has worked at Mercedes for 22 years. “Maybe management pretended to care about us before. Now they don’t even pretend. The wages, the long hours, the disrespect, it just adds up. We need to make a change for the better at Mercedes. We should be able to work, make decent money and spend time with our families.”

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Contact Information

Jonah Furman

Feldman Strategies, team@feldmanstrategies.com