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Union organizing under attack

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8 May, 2024Union busting is a real threat to organizing, where the employer puts money behind sophisticated tactics to scare workers into voting against the union.

The right to organize is a fundamental right which states that employees have a right to work collectively on  issues of common interest, like wages and working conditions. Union discrimination is rife in the southern states of the US, even at companies that normally engage in collective bargaining and social dialogue in the rest of the world.

It took three votes over ten years for workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to succeed in getting a majority vote for a union. Until then, it was the only Volkswagen plant in the world without union representation. One reason why the workers finally won the election with an overwhelming majority was because this time the employer adopted a nearly neutral position and did not engage in union busting.

Next week, workers at the Mercedes Benz plant in Alabama will vote on joining IndustriALL affiliate UAW. It is a vote that is surrounded by attacks on the union, disinformation and intimidation from the employer, trying to scare the workers into voting no to join the union.

While union organizers don’t have access to the workplace ahead of the vote, the employer is going in all guns blazing, hiring expensive and skilled union busters with the sole aim of scaring people into voting no to the union. Workers are required to attend mandatory meetings with managers, directly encouraging them to vote no. This is accompanied by a website, radio commercials and banners on the Mercedes Benz property. 

Workers are bombarded with lies about the union, portraying the UAW as corrupt, having a secret agenda to move jobs from the US to Mexico, arguing that union strikes and benefits often result in permanent layoffs, implying that a vote for union equals a shutting down of the Mercedes Benz plant and people will be out of much needed jobs.

Workers are urged to “think about the consequences” of saying yes to a union. On its website, MBUSI workers’ information committee claims to “educate employees about the radical and self-serving agenda of the UAW”. The message projected is clear: we are one big family for now, but with a vote for the UAW, we won’t be.

And in a blatant show of disrespect for fundamental workers’ rights, governors from Alabama and neighbouring states voiced strong opposition in a public statement, with unfounded arguments that unions could jeopardize job creation and economic growth in the region. 

Says Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary:

“The company wants workers to trust them as their family. The fact is that what they want is to keep as much as possible of the values workers create and distribute it to shareholders and management paychecks. The only family that will fight for workers’ paycheck and working conditions is the union.”