Amid resistance from politicians and car companies, the United Auto Workers union continues its effort to organize in the South.
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said in his latest video that 1,500 workers at a Mercedes plant in Alabama have signed union cards. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has attacked the push as being against the values of people in her state.
“She says the out-of-state special interest group is the 1,500 workers who signed union cards,” Fain said in the video. “I say the out-of-state special interest group is the foreign car company that takes millions in taxpayer dollars to pay poverty wages to American workers.”
A recent study by an Alabama-based nonprofit found that — when adjusted for inflation — auto wages in the state have dropped by 11% over the past 20 years.
Foreign car companies have long settled in the American South due to political indifference, or outright antagonism, towards unions. With labor drawing more attention over the past couple years, Fain says organizing the South would put the U.S. on par with the rest of the world.
“For most of these companies the only non-union plants they operate in the entire world are in the United States of America,” he said.
Companies like Mercedes and Volkswagen have robust unions in Germany.
Fain also pushed back on automaker Stellantis’ assertion that firing more than 500 temporary workers was necessary, saying the job cuts were all about improving the company’s stock price.
“Stellantis can afford to do the right thing here and provide a pathway to full time good auto jobs,” he said, “but again they’re choosing to line executive and shareholder pockets.”
In its contract with Stellantis, the UAW was able to get temps pay increases and an easier pathway to full-time status. Stellantis is planning as many as 3,500 temporary layoffs in February at assembly plants in Detroit and Toledo.