Alabama political leaders from the Governor’s Mansion to the Statehouse to the Halls of Congress have cautioned auto workers in the state about voting for a union. They claim voting for Mercedes Benz to become a union shop is not the panacea some think it is. They are asking the employees to consider the long-term impact and ongoing events in Detroit where a six-week UAW strike forced record concessions from the “Big 3” automakers in 2023 seem to bear that out, at least partially.

The Wall Street Journal and Reuters News Agency are reporting that Ford is preparing for a round of layoffs for its salaried workers. This news comes after Stellantis NV and General Motors said they are offering employee buyouts.

General Motors has issued layoff notices to 1,000 workers at their Orion Assembly north of Detroit and announced 400 more layoffs at the Lansing Grand River factory also in Michigan.

And it’s not just the companies that are concerned about UAW overreach. The majority of Nissan employees at the company's facility in Somerset, N.J., petitioned to decertify the UAW in early April, and the election on April 24 passed by a large majority and that is no easy feat. The pro-union NLRB has reinstated a rule that allows unions to file so-called “blocking charges” when workers file a decertification petition, enabling the union to push off a vote almost indefinitely.

Industry observers point out the massive 25% pay increase, pension improvements and return to cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are just part of the economic woes plaguing the Detroit auto giants. The expensive switch to electric vehicles ordered by the Biden Administration, inflation, along with higher interest rates and material costs are also among the financial culprits.

UAW President Shawn Fain has boasted about how the six days strike last year brought record concessions from the “Big 3” and how that success has served as a springboard to his $40 million dollar campaign to unionize Mercedes and other non-union southern auto plants.

Some workers at Mercedes noticed what the Detroit union workers achieved and decided that is what they want. They point to lower pay, slow promotions, irregular work shifts, inadequate pensions as the spark for the union movement. Employees at Hyundai just outside Montgomery were also paying attention and have talked 30% of the workforce there into signing union cards.

But there could be a bump in the road, no sooner than the ink was dry on the new "Big 3" contracts, than the Detroit automakers were indicating the cost cutting to pay the tab was just ahead.

The union's stunning Detroit victory emboldened the forceful, hard-nosed and strong talking Fain, “The UAW is back to setting the standard. Now, we take our strike muscle and our fighting spirit to the rest of the industries we represent, and to millions of non-union workers ready to stand up and fight for a better way of life.”

Although the aggressive union activity swayed employees at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, union observers believe Mercedes and other non-union automakers will not be so easy. They point out that VW offered little resistance to the union effort. That is not the case in Alabama and elsewhere.

The governors of the six southern states targeted by the union issued a warning to employees that a union is not all it is cracked up to be, “We are seeing in the fallout of the Detroit Three strike with those automakers rethinking investments and cutting jobs,” the statement said. “Putting businesses in our states in that position is the last thing we want to do.”

The joint statement added, “…The UAW has come in making big promises to our constituents that they can’t deliver on. And we have serious reservations that the UAW leadership can represent our values. They proudly call themselves democratic socialists and seem more focused on helping President Biden get reelected than on the autoworker jobs being cut at plants they already represent.”

The union vote is just the next step for the UAW, if it wins there will be hardnosed negotiations from both sides in contract negotiations. Lack of progress could lead to a strike.

The future for Mercedes Benz is being written in a secret ballot this week and the outcome will be revealed Friday.

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