Mercedes Alabama Union Leaders Initially Wanted to Go Independent – Rank & File UAW Members Escalate Palestine Actions – Biden Backs Locked Out Boeing Workers

Alabama Mercedes UAW activists rally in Tuscaloosa (UAW)


Greetings from the Burgh, where I am preparing to ship out to Alabama to cover the UAW election at Mercedes. The election runs from next Tuesday to Friday and Payday will be on the ground. 

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Mercedes Alabama Union Leaders Initially Wanted to Go Independent

When Shawn Fain ran to unseat Ray Curry as president of UAW, Fain promised a new era of union democracy in the UAW. The election at Mercedes will certainly be an interesting test of the UAW’s professed commitment to union democracy.

For nearly a decade, a minority union has existed at Mercedes in Tuscaloosa  and was chartered as UAW local 112 with leadership elected by union members. 

When Mercedes workers began exploring a union election last fall, many of the local minority union leaders began exploring leaving the UAW and chartering as an independent union.

The local UAW workers approached the UAW and informed them of their desire to go as an independent union. The UAW in turn agreed to demands for local autonomy. 

With a union campaign laid without much international staff until the last few months, the election at Mercedes could be an interesting test of the UAW’s commitment to union democracy. 

For more on the bottom-up approach of Mercedes workers organizing, check out this interview with Rutgers labor professor and writer Eric Blanc 

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Donate to help us reach our goal to cover this historic UAW election in Alabama. Please, if you can, sign up as one of our 778 recurring donors today. 

UAW Workers Established “Union Village” Encampment at UCLA 

On Tuesday, Payday broke the story of how UAW President Shawn Fain vetoed attempts within the UAW to divest from Israel. UAW represents over 100,000 academic workers and many, who have been involved in campus occupations, were upset by Fain’s veto of the union’s divestment from Israel. (See our story here)

While the UAW along with other unions endorsed a ceasefire in December, the union has been loath to take more aggressive action to protest Israel’s attack on Gaza. 

When several UAW members attempted to protest the UAW’s endorsement of Biden at its convention in January, they were literally dragged from the convention by UAW staff as union members began chanting “U-S-A. U-S-A” to drown out their anti-war chants. (Check out Prem Thakker’s story at the Intercept from January)

However, rank-and-file UAW members on college campuses continue to take bold action to stop genocide in Gaza. 

On UC Berkeley’s campus, UAW members have established a “Union Village.” More from the Daily Bruin

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Academic Student Employee, or ASE, Statewide Chair Tanzil Chowdhury. “People understand the gravity of the moment.”

UAW 4811 plans to hold a strike authorization vote May 13 in response to the police force against Gaza solidarity encampments at UCLA and UCSD, Chowdhury added.

While union members have been at the encampment for the last few weeks in an individual capacity, UAW 4811 did not have an explicit presence until Tuesday, according to UC Berkeley ASE Unit Chair Iris Rosenblum-Sellers.

UC Berkeley’s is the first “Union Village” to be established at any UC encampment, Rosenblum-Sellers added. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were around half a dozen tents in the “Union Village,” but both Chowdhury and Rosenblum-Sellers said union members anticipate filling the remaining space soon.

For more, check out the Daily Cal

Biden Voices Support for Locked Out Firefighters

Earlier this week, Boeing locked out underpaid firefighters fighting for a higher wage at its base in Everett, Washington. 

Earlier today, President Biden issued his support for the locked out firefighters and denounced Boeing. 

“Collective bargaining is a right that helps employers and employees,” tweeted President Joe Biden. “I’m concerned by reports that Boeing locked out IAFF I-66 members. I encourage folks to return to the table to secure a deal that benefits Boeing and gets these firefighters the pay and benefits they deserve.”

For more on the lockout at Boeing, check out KIRO. 

French Union Powerhouse Backs Cannes Film Festival Strike 

Finally, earlier this week, a group of rank-and-file precarious film festival workers in Cannes announced that they would strike. Now, the French powerhouse union federation CGT has backed the strike. 

“We cinema, audiovisual and animation technicians are united with these workers who are constrained to work in conditions which are financially and materially more and more difficult, so that participating films can be shown in the best possible conditions,” said the CGT in a statement. “The making of a film only has a sense if it can be shown, and festivals play a big part in the life and promotion of cinematic works particularly in France.”

For more, check out coverage in Deadline.

News & Strikes Happening Elsewhere 

Alright folks, that’s all for today. Keep sending comments, ideas, complaints, and suggestions to [email protected] 

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Love & Solidarity, 


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]