Shawn Fain, the president of the United Auto Workers union, pledged that their fight at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa County is not over after workers there voted against unionizing this week.

As the Thread first reported, 56 percent of participating automotive workers at the Vance plant voted against joining the UAW in a secret ballot vote that concluded Friday.

The measure failed with 2,642 workers against the UAW and 2,045 votes in favor of joining, according to numbers provided by the UAW.

Fain joined MBUSI workers who supported the union at its headquarters on Highway 11 in Coaling Friday afternoon to discuss where things stand after the last votes were counted.

"Obviously not the result we wanted, but these courageous workers reached out to us because they wanted justice. They led us, they led this fight, and that's what this is all about," Fain said. "What happens next is up to them. Justice isn't just about one vote or one campaign, it's about getting a voice and getting your fair share."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Fain told a room absolutely full of local, national and international press that he does not consider the union's campaign in Alabama to be a failure, and said the fight is long from over.

"Workers won serious gains in this campaign, don't lose sight of that. The UAW bump! They killed wage tiers, they got rid of a CEO that had no interest in improving conditions for these workers," he said. "Mercedes is a better place thanks to this campaign and these courageous workers."

Fain noted that it took three votes for workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga to vote to join the UAW, but when they did so last month, it was overwhelmingly - 73 percent of workers voted to unionize.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

"The company says give the new CEO a chance, and it's ironic because we've heard this before, that's exactly what Volkswagen told its workers in 2019," Fain said. "In 2024, Volkswagen workers realized it's not about the CEO, it's about a voice on the job, it's about getting our lives and time back and having dignity on the job. The only path to do that, the only vehicle for that, is with a union contract."

Fain repeated allegations that Mercedes "engaged in egregious illegal behavior" during the UAW's efforts to organize and said the US federal government and the German government are both investigating Mercedes "for the intimidation and harassment they inflicted on their own workers."

"It's a David vs. Goliath fight, and sometimes Goliath wins the battle but ultimately David will win the war," Fain said. "These workers will win their fair share and we're going to be there every step of the way with them."

Watch his full comments below.

On the other side of this battle, opponents of the UAW celebrated the result of the vote.

"The workers in Vance have spoken, and they have spoken clearly! Alabama is not Michigan, and we are not the Sweet Home to the UAW. We urge the UAW to respect the results of this secret ballot election," Governor Kay Ivey said. "I am proud Alabama is home to some of the greatest automakers in the world, and I am grateful to these companies who provide good pay, benefits and opportunities to many men and women across our state."

Local business leaders are also celebrating as nervousness about the potential fallout of a successful unionization effort can be shelved for now.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

"Mercedes has been a game-changer for West Alabama, providing great jobs and great compensation for our region’s residents," said Kyle South, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. "Today, we’re pleased to see that workers at the plant decided to continue their direct relationship with the company. What’s important now is for the plant and the West Alabama community to come together, and continue producing the cars that help make Alabama the #1 auto-exporting state."

For more first-hand news from across West Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

Top Stories from the Tuscaloosa Thread (5/6 - 5/13)

7 of the Top Stories published by the Tuscaloosa Thread during the 20th week of 2024, a peaceful and slow news week in west Alabama.

Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)


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