Workers at an auto parts plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama recently petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a union representation election.
The petition is the latest development in the UAW’s ongoing campaign to organize autoworkers in the South.
The workers work at a Tuscaloosa plant owned by Faurecia, a global auto parts supplier based in France. They make automotive interior components.
If the workers vote to join the UAW, they will become the sixth group of auto parts workers along a 60 mile corridor between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham to become UAW members.
Most of the unionized auto parts plants along this corridor supply parts to Mercendes, which operates a manufacturing plant in nearby Vance where the UAW has an active organizing campaign.
At another Faurecia plant in nearby Cottondale, workers in June 2012 voted 79-33 to join the UAW.
In February they negotiated and ratified their first collective bargaining agreement that among other things raises their pay by between $3 per hour and $5.30 per hour over the next three years; provides a signing bonus of $500; improves health care coverage and lowers health care premium costs; and establishes time and a half overtime pay when a worker works more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.
In November, workers at a Johnson Controls plant in Cottondale also voted to join UAW.
“Workers here and everywhere are learning more about what it means to join a union, and they’re standing up and voting to be represented,” said UAW Local 2083 President Richard McGraw to UAW’s magazine Solidarity after the November election. “They want to be respected and compensated for the work they do to help make companies like Johnson Controls successful.”
Local 2083 is located in Tuscaloosa.
In addition to the Faurecia and Jonson Control plants in Cottondale, UAW has members at and collective bargaining agreements with three other auto parts plants along the Birmingham to Tuscaloosa corridor: ZF Industries in Tuscaloosa, Inteva in Cottondale, and another Johnson Controls plant in McCalla.
All of these plants supply parts to Mercendes.
Workers at the Mercedes plant in Vance, located about halfway between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, have recently initiated an organizing campaign, but unlike the Faurecia workers in Tuscaloosa haven’t petitioned for an election yet.
David Gilbert, one of the workers supporting the union at the Vance plant, recently traveled to Stuttgart, Germany to attend an international conference of Mercendes workers who belong to unions all over the world.
In a letter to his fellow workers about the trip, Gilbert described himself as a pro-company worker who is also pro union.
After describing his experience in Stuttgart, Gilbert laid out some of the changes that he thought would be possible if the workers had a union.
“I’d like to see,” writes Gilbert. “A pension plan; profit-sharing instead of a team share based on ever-changing formulas; call-back rights in case (of) future (layoffs); using our vacation days on only the days that WE choose; Team Leader elections or a system where Team Members could give real input over who is selected to support the team; REAL STANDARDS instead of convenient exceptions or Group Leader discretion, and what about the policy of ‘equal pay for equal work of equal value’ as stated in Daimler’s (Mercedes)Principles of Social Responsibility.
“Right now the company holds all the power, makes all the decisions, and chooses when and whether or not to enforce policies,” continues Gilbert. “If we had a union we would have the power to negotiate over these decisions.”
While the Vance organizing drive is just getting underway, the one at the Faurecia plant in Tuscaloosa is much further along. After the NLRB certifies that the signatures on the petition are valid, it will set a date for a union representation election.
In addition to the organizing campaigns in Alabama, the UAW has active organizing campaigns at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.
IG Metall, the world’s largest industrial union that represents German autoworkers, has been helping the UAW with its organizing work at the Volkswagen and Mercedes plants.