German Group Unfairly Pressuring Benz Workers in Alabama to Unionize


More than 5,000 Mercedes-Benz workers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will vote on May 13 through 17 on whether to join the United Auto Workers, and German activist unions are pressuring them to get on board.

The Alabama and South Carolina plants are the only Mercedes plants in the world not to be unionized, and IG Metall, the powerful German labor union, is trying to change that—even if it means not playing fair.

“We encourage our colleagues in Tuscaloosa to make history by exercising their right to vote and voting to form a union,” said Ergun Lümali, union representative at IG Metall and chairman of the Mercedes-Benz Works Council, a worker group that coordinates with the union. “We are closely monitoring the UAW’s activities and company conduct in Tuscaloosa.”

Lümali said that after successfully voting for the UAW, Tuscaloosa would become a “full member of the World Workers’ Council.”

IG Metall sees its job as recruiting American workers to socialist workers’ councils. When the powerful German union found that Mercedes had hired communications advisers to craft messages to counter the UAW, as Mercedes is entitled to do under U.S. law, IG Metall complained to Mercedes, and Mercedes fired the individuals.

“Europeans are trying to infringe upon American employees’ freedom of choice on whether to unionize,” one of them told me. “By removing the right of free speech, the employee is denied important information to evaluate in making a very personal critical decision that impacts the employee and their family. This is not the equitable process that we hold dear in America.”

Generally, when a union files a petition to unionize the workforce, the company holds meetings to inform workers of the disadvantages of union representation, such as the payment of dues and promotion on the basis of seniority, rather than merit. But due to German union pressure, Mercedes is only allowing pro-union material and UAW representatives to walk the halls speaking to employees, according to news reports.

That’s most unusual. Just as employers are supposed to allow union advocates a chance to make their case to workers, so they are supposed to allow union opponents.

Mercedes workers in Alabama have many reasons to reject the union, free of foreign interference. Employment at the Big Three automakers represented by the UAW has declined, and auto jobs have moved to China with vehicle electrification.

UAW membership fell from 1.5 million in 1979 to 370,000 in 2023. Hence, the UAW needs new members to pay dues to fund union bosses’ salaries and pensions for retired union members in Detroit.

Dues for UAW hourly workers are 2.5 hours of pay per month. With average wages of $36 an hour, that’s $90 a month in dues, or over $1,000 a year. That would help shore up the pensions of the UAW’s 580,000 retirees and pay the salaries of the union officials.

UAW President Shawn Fain earns more than $220,000 per year, more than six times Mercedes workers’ average wages of $36,000. Fain flies to lavish events such as the UAW National Stellantis Council Meeting in March in Puerto Rico with other union officials.

Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama shouldn’t have to pay for union bosses’ perks or legacy pensions in Detroit, and unionizing the plant goes directly contrary to workers’ interests.

Unionization would raise the cost of vehicles, undercutting Mercedes’ competitiveness relative to the auto companies that were not represented by unions. For instance, Jim Farley, Ford’s CEO, said earlier this year that Ford had a $7 billion to $8 billion cost disadvantage over other carmakers due to higher costs.

Higher costs from unionization are one reason that Ford, Stellantis, and GM are announcing layoffs. The UAW has not succeeded in reversing commitments from the Big Three automakers to go all electric by 2035—which results in job losses for its members and job gains for Chinese workers who make the batteries and other electric vehicle components.

Just as foreign countries shouldn’t interfere in U.S. presidential elections, foreign actors shouldn’t interfere in American union elections.

Foreign unions don’t have American workers’ best interests at heart. If Mercedes wants to operate in America, it should follow American law and not cave to IG Metall.

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Las Vegas News Magazine

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