Nonunion Autoworkers Say Union Yes!

Can new leadership and a major contract victory help the UAW organize the South?

Source: United Auto Workers

On the heels of last year’s Stand Up Strike, thousands of nonunion auto workers are reaching out to join the United Auto Workers (UAW).

In a watershed victory, 3,613 workers at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga voted by 73 percent to join the union.

The UAW is riding a wave of momentum. In a movement that drew inspiration from TDU, UAW members won the right to vote for international union officers and used it to elect new leadership.

Last year’s Stand Up Strike reversed decades of givebacks and won major wage increases and contract gains for 146,000 workers at the Big 3 automakers.

The vote in Chattanooga was the first test of whether the union could use the strike gains to propel new organizing. It won’t be easy.

To try to buy off workers, Volkswagen raised wages by $3 an hour right before the union vote. It didn’t work.

Union-Busting at Mercedes

A few weeks later, Mercedes Benz reached even deeper into the union-busting playbook to defeat an organizing drive in Alabama.

Mercedes fired its U.S. CEO, eliminated two-tier, raised wages and organized a campaign of captive audience meetings.

The company trotted out folk heroes like Alabama football coach Nick Saban to warn against the evil of unions. Politicians warned that going union would ruin the state’s economy.

The company forced workers to attend anti-union captive audience meetings and fired union supporters.

The UAW has filed charges against Mercedes with the National Labor Relations Board and additional charges in Germany under a new law aimed at holding companies accountable for violations in their global supply chains.

Most importantly, the organizing committee at Mercedes is sticking together. Volkswagen workers tried to join the UAW and failed in 2014 and 2019.

After the losses, the Chattanooga organizing committee acted like a union. Now they are one and are headed to the bargaining table.

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