Listen: Mercedes Union Leader in Alabama Predicts Landslide Victory 

UAW workers at Mercedes in Vance, Alabama are preparing to vote in a historic UAW election (UAW)

Since the late 1990s, UAW Local 149 Vice President Kirk Garner has been involved in efforts to unionize at Mercedes in Vance, Alabama. Now, after the 73% victory at Volkswagen in April, the union says that it is cruising to victory. 

“It feels really good. And it’s finally coming to fruition. And we’re excited, everybody’s excited, ready to vote,” says Garner, who predicts that approximately 70% of his co-workers at Mercedes support the UAW. 

Unlike previous efforts to unionize at Mercedes, which management had always been able to blunt, it does not appear that management has been able to do very much to stop the UAW in Vance, Alabama. 

“We’re having to watch little videos every day. Now management is starting to go around the plant and pat everybody on the back. I don’t think it’s doing any good,” says Kirk. “There really hadn’t really been much of an attack campaign from fellow employees. They really can’t get anything going. We feel really good.” 

Last week, Mercedes even attempted to respond to the union’s momentum by firing its plant manager to claim to workers that they were going to change things. Garner says it still had no effect.

In past campaigns, Mercedes hinted that the plant might close if workers unionize, but that message isn’t effective either this time. 

“I don’t think people fear closing because they just invested $1.2 billion in the plant, in the battery plant and the EVs, and so there’s no fear they’re gonna move,” says Garner. 

Instead, Garner says that workers are motivated by the success of the UAW in winning major gains during the “Stand Up” strike. 

“When the UAW got some great contracts out of the (Big) Three, people realized that they were leaving a lot on the table,” says Garner.  “And so that’s pushed this campaign for the most part, what we were leaving on the table.” 

Mercedes union organizers say that the news of the massive victory is helping building their support as they head for election. 

“Everybody’s excited,” says Garner. “We’re making calls this week to some of the undecided people, and we’re getting good responses from them. Volkswagen was able to get, you know, some people that hadn’t signed up, to vote for the union.”

Listen to our full 20-minute interview to understand why workers at Mercedes are likely to vote for the UAW in a landslide.

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]