The United Auto Workers (UAW) on October 3 announced that it granted a charter to a new local of southern workers at the Mercedes-Benz factory near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The new local, UAW Local 112, is the second union of southern auto workers charted by UAW that is not yet officially recognized by the workers’ employer.
Last summer, workers at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee organized a union, and UAW granted them a charter as Local 42.
Volkswagen management has indicated to UAW that it will recognize Local 42 as the workers’ collective bargaining representative when a sufficient number of workers have joined the union.
After Local 42 was organized, members began signing up new members, and last week Gary Casteel, UAW secretary treasurer, told the Detroit Free Press that a majority of Chattanooga Volkswagen workers had joined the UAW and that he expects the company to recognize Local 42 after the Local elects officers.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Local 42 on October 3 held elections for its officers but didn’t report the results of the election.
Like their fellow union members in Local 42, Local 112 members have begun signing up new members and are hoping that Daimler, the company that manufactures the Mercedes-Benz line, will recognize their union when it has enough members.
“We are asking Daimler to respect our right to representation and give the same opportunities to Alabama’s working families that have been extended to our counterparts elsewhere in the US and around the world,” said Rodney Bowens, a Local 112 member who at a media conference announced the formation of Local 112. “Our hope is that management will recognize the importance of today’s announcement and welcome our new local union into the Daimler family.”
Daimler’s Alabama plant is the company’s only plant worldwide without a union.
Daimler has a truck factory in North Carolina that is unionized.
The UAW local at that factory and Daimler recently concluded negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement that the local membership ratified.
The announcement of the new local at Daimler’s Alabama auto plant came shortly after UAW, IG Metall, Germany’s largest union of manufacturing workers, and the Daimler World Employee Committee signed an agreement to work together to make the Alabama plant a union plant.
“We lend our support to all workers at Daimler so they can make their voices heard and be represented by a strong union,” said Michael Brecht, chairman of the Daimler World Employee Committee. “The Daimler World Employee Committee’s agreement with UAW and IG Metall is a clear signal that we are committed to the success of our common mission of building strong employee representation in Alabama.”
Members of Local 112 said that the new union’s goals will be to improve job safety, especially ergonomic safety, and to help the 1,000 temporary workers at the Alabama plant achieve full-time permanent status.
Local 112 members also said that they have been talking to their fellow employees about the benefits of co-determination, the industrial relations model employed at Daimler’s factories in Germany and around the world.
Under the co-determination model, workers elect members to an on-the-job works council. The council gives workers a voice in matters concerning production, safety, quality control, and other matters that determine the quality of the job and the final product made at the plant.
When Local 112 is recognized by Daimler, the union will work toward establishing a works council at the Tuscaloosa plant.
“We believe now is the time to fulfill the promise co-determination in Alabama, and we believe the UAW is the right partner to assist the workers,” said Joerg Hofmann, vice president of IG Metall and a member of Daimler’s board of directors. “Co-determination and union rights are standard practice for German companies worldwide.”