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Auto workers in Tennessee begin union election, secure May vote date for Alabama plant

By staff

Chattanooga, TN – More than 4000 workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee began voting on Wednesday, April 17, in a union election set to determine whether or not they join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. The vote is taking place across three days and is being conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

The vote was triggered after UAW filed cards with the NLRB. Union spokespeople say that they turned in “super majority” on signed union cards in February. This super majority on cards signed came about after a two month campaign to organize a union, signaling strong energy around the idea of unionizing.

Isaac Meadows is an assembly worker at Volkswagen said, “We’re voting yes to win a better life for ourselves and our families.” Meadows went on to say, “We need a say in our schedules, benefits, pay and more. We’re proud to work at Volkswagen, but we also know the value of a voice at work.”

At the same time as the vote is occurring in Tennessee, UAW has now secured a vote for thousands of auto workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The NLRB announced on Thursday that the vote for the Mercedes-Benz workers will take place from May 13 to May 17, with the voted being counted on May 17.

These votes to join UAW happening in the South follow a contract fight at the Big Three automakers in 2023 that saw thousands of UAW members striking in a highly successful wave of “stand up strikes” across the U.S. which resulted in major contract gains. UAW has long talked about and even attempted organizing in the South, however previous attempts have all floundered and the elections were filed for without ever seeing a majority on cards.

While the results of these elections are still to be seen, it is clear that UAW is serious about its intention to organize the South, and to organize across more auto companies. According to the union, more than 10,000 non-union auto workers have signed cards to join UAW in the last few months. They now also launched organizing campaigns publicly at Mercedes in Vance, Alabama, at Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama, and at Toyota in Troy, Missouri. The UAW says that workers at more than two dozen other facilities are also actively organizing.

One clear way to see the difference between this attempt and previous ones is that UAW says that over 5000 autoworkers who will be part of the Mercedes vote in Alabama have signed union cards, and as of 2023 the total bargaining unit affected was around 6100 workers, signaling a dominant majority in support of forming their union.

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