Mercedes-Benz workers form new union local in Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – At a news conference Oct. 3, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) employees and the United Auto Workers – with support from the Daimler World Employee Committee and the German automotive trade union IG Metall – announced the formation of UAW Local 112, a new local union providing representation for workers at the MBUSI assembly plant in Vance, Ala., near Tuscaloosa.

The MBUSI plant in Tuscaloosa County is the only Daimler plant in the world that does not currently offer employee representation. Organized by MBUSI employees, UAW Local 112 offers workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace that aligns with Daimler AG’s global commitment to the German principle of “co-determination” between management and employees. UAW Local 112 will represent any interested employees who join the local as members. No employees will be required to join.

“Mercedes-Benz is one of the most storied brands in the history of the global automotive industry, and that’s in large part because of the company’s workers,” said Dennis Williams, president of the UAW. “It’s time for the committed and hard-working employees at MBUSI to have the same representation that Daimler employees enjoy around the world. It’s the right thing to do. Plus, it will improve productivity and quality, ensuring success for both the company and the workforce.”

Williams noted that the UAW already represents nearly 7,000 workers at Daimler plants in the U.S., including Daimler Trucks North America facilities in North Carolina. In May, Daimler leaders pointed to “ongoing close collaboration with the UAW” in securing retiree benefits and increasing the company’s long-term competitiveness.

The announcement of the chartering of UAW Local 112 comes as Daimler ramps up production of its popular C-Class vehicles at the plant. MBUSI employees immediately began communicating with fellow team members and the plant’s management about the goal of applying best practices from the American and German labor systems in order to create a new organization that best fits the needs of the MBUSI workforce.

“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 U.S. and around the world,” said Rodney Bowens, who works in quality at the MBUSI body and paint shops. “Our hope is that management will recognize the importance of today’s announcement and welcome our new local union into the Daimler family.”

The announcement of UAW Local 112 follows a recent agreement between the UAW, the Daimler World Employee Committee, and IG Metall to advance employee representation at MBUSI. The agreement reaffirms the organizations’ longstanding partnerships and cooperative efforts.

Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer who in July was elected vice chairman of the Daimler World Employee Committee, called on the company to work with the new local union. “Daimler has a clear global commitment to employee representation,” said Casteel, a native of Muscle Shoals, Ala. “On a personal note, I’m proud to help advance job security and job growth in my home state through increased collaboration between Daimler’s employees and management.”

Top leaders of the Daimler World Employee Committee and IG Metall on Friday toured the MBUSI facility to meet with management and employees, then joined employees and UAW officials to announce the new local union. The Daimler World Employee Committee is a group of delegates who speak on behalf of employees at production sites around the world.

Michael Brecht, chairman of the Daimler World Employee Committee, commended MBUSI employees for exercising their right to representation. “We lend our support to all workers at Daimler so they can make their voices heard and be represented by a strong union,” said Brecht, who also serves as vice chairman of the Daimler Supervisory Board. “The Daimler World Employee Committee’s agreement with the UAW and IG Metall is a clear signal that we are committed to the success of our common mission of building up strong employee representation in Alabama.”

Joerg Hofmann, vice president of IG Metall and a member of the Daimler Supervisory Board, echoed Brecht’s comments. “We want to see effective worker representation at MBUSI,” Hofmann said. “We believe now is the time to fulfill the promise of co-determination in Alabama and we believe the UAW is the right partner to assist the workers. Co-determination and union rights are standard practice for German companies worldwide.”

UAW Local 112 members said the union’s priorities would include ensuring plant safety, supporting improved ergonomics in the workplace, and creating pathways to permanent employment for more than 1,000 temporary workers at MBUSI. “The Mercedes-Benz brand is all about quality,” said Tara Dooley, who works in quality in the plant. “We believe quality production starts with having a voice in the workplace and recognizing that when employees and management work together, then everyone benefits.”

Ray Curry, director of UAW Region 8 representing the South, emphasized that UAW Local 112 will be run by, and for, the employees at MBUSI. Curry, who earlier in his career worked at Daimler Trucks North America facilities in North Carolina, likened the new local union to locals elsewhere in the country representing Daimler employees.

“Daimler and the UAW have a positive history of partnership in the South and across the country,” said Curry. “We believe the same kind of labor-management collaboration that has powered Daimler plants elsewhere in the U.S. will take MBUSI to new heights.”

Looking ahead, UAW Local 112 members also pledged to get involved in the community – as UAW members have done in other communities across the country – to support charitable causes, youth programs and other local needs. “I see UAW Local 112 not just as an opportunity for representation but a way to give back to our communities in the Tuscaloosa area,” said Don White, who works in body material handling at MBUSI. “As our membership grows, we’re going to be active. We are focused on the future.”

Photo: United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams speaks at a news conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, in which he announced the formation of a new local seeking to represent the Mercedes plant in Alabama.  Erik Schelzig/AP


CONTRIBUTOR

Special to PeoplesWorld.org
Special to PeoplesWorld.org

Peoplesworld.org is a daily news website of, for and by the 99% and the direct descendant of the Daily Worker. Published by Long View Publishing Co., People’s World reports on the movements for jobs, peace, equality, democracy, civil rights and liberties, labor, immigrant, LGBT and women’s rights, protection of the environment, and more.

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