Another domino could soon fall in Labor's mission to organize the South


Late last month, workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, overwhelmingly voted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW). This is the first time that workers at a foreign automaker's plant have formed a union in the southern United States, the least unionized region in the country. A UAW victory could have major implications for workers across the South, who are subject to labor laws that weaken unions and lower wages. Next, workers at the Mercedes-Benz facility in Vance, Alabama, will vote on whether to join the UAW starting in May. 13and the results could help determine whether the union's success in Tennessee will have a domino effect on other workplaces in the region.

Union density in Tennessee is fluctuating. 6% and other states have even lower union density: just above Virginia. Four%, North Carolina is below 3%, South Carolina has the lowest union density in the nation, slightly higher. 2Percentage of workers. All of these conditions are Union members and organizers say the term “right to work” is a misnomer. In practice, right-to-work laws that prohibit union safety agreements (meaning they prohibit unionized workplaces from requiring all workers to pay union dues) have weakened and weakened unions. It is becoming smaller.

This new wave of organizing is not the first time unions have seriously attempted to organize workers in worker-unfriendly states. In the middle-1940Council of Industrial Organizations (CIO) launched Operation Dixie hopes to unionize southern workers, especially those in the textile industry. Their goals were not only to improve the lives of workers in the South or expand their ranks, but also to maintain the strength of northern trade unions, as industry began to move south due to a lack of union density. It was to do. However, Operation Dixie failed primarily due to racist Jim Crow laws and other racial conflicts in the area, the legacy of which workers are still dealing with today.

leonard riley 48International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) Local Member of the Year 1422 In Charleston, South Carolina, they say: In times like this, Our Governor Henry McMaster says, 'When we come to South Carolina, we work for less. ” Is that how you market your state? ” Riley is referring, in part, to a joint statement released by the governors of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, and South Carolina before the Volkswagen factory union election. Unionization would undoubtedly put the state's jobs at risk. ”

The lack of union density creates a feedback loop. Workers may not know what a union is, may not know who is a union member, and may lack experience with what union organizers call. “The Union Difference'' – how unions substantially improve people's lives. (On average, a member's income is 14% is higher than non-union members. You are also more likely to receive benefits such as health care and pensions provided by your employer. ) Riley says: If you live your life a certain way, you get used to not having what you should have. Victories like the UAW's in Chattanooga, overcoming intimidation from bosses and public pressure, help all workers understand what they deserve. ”

This is not the first time the UAW has attempted to organize at Volkswagen.The union carried out the following campaigns: 2014 and 2019The previous elections were all close, but neither came close. 2014the number of votes is 712626,and 2019it was 833776. But the political landscape has changed significantly over the past decade, with workers taking action against powerful employers like Starbucks and Amazon.Participate in high-profile strikes such as 75,000 Kaiser Permanente employees last year.And the fact that support for labor unions is at an all-time high. 1965.

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Autoworkers, especially since reformer Sean Fein took over as president early last year, have seen new, progressive leadership in the UAW and historic victories in the union's Big Three post-union unions. Ta. Stand Up” strike last fall. UAW members of Daimler Trucks North America, which manufactures, sells and services several commercial vehicles in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, narrowly avoided a strike ahead of contract expiration at midnight on Friday in April. A tentative agreement was reached. 26.The agreement includes the elimination of wage tiers, profit sharing, anti-inflation, record wage increases, and in May Four Workers ratified the agreement. This victory is another victory in the South and will also encourage other workers in the region to unite.

Despite enormous obstacles, including an anti-labor legal system, right-to-work laws, widespread union-busting tactics, and deeply anti-labor politicians, union organizing in the South is on the rise, with each victory leading to regional Overall worker organizing conditions are improving. . Kelly Coward, a registered nurse at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, helped organize a union after HCA Healthcare acquired the hospital. 2019. Coward, who was born and raised in North Carolina, knew that nurses in other states were unionized, but she had no personal experience with unions.She worked at the mission for years. 20 We were happy for many years until we sold it to a commercial company, but that's when things started to change.

That's when we noticed a big difference.Positions were cut and we didn't have the necessary equipment,” Coward said. In times like this. We knew we needed to do something. ” Her colleagues contacted National Nurses United and won a union election for Mission By. 70% during September 2020became the first private hospital in the state to form a union.

The victory in Asheville was a boon for the NNU, which then went on to organize nurses in Austin, Texas. 2022 and in new orleans louisiana 2023. North Carolina has seen other union victories in recent years, including by Duke University faculty. 2016Duke graduate worker 2023 (both campaigns I worked on), and staff at Durham REI. 2023Additionally, there has been increased union activity by public sector workers in the state, including sanitation workers at the National Power and Radio Authority. & United Mechanical Workers (UE) Local 150 Who carried out the illegal strike? 2023 protest against low wages.

Ben Carroll, organizing coordinator for the Southern Workers' Association (SWA), said: The victory for Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga was nothing short of emotional. It gave confidence and momentum to many workers throughout the South who were themselves organizing and building power in the workplace, and it told others in the Southern labor movement that the South could and would organize. It will send a strong message. ”

Establishment of SWA 12 For several years now, we have been coordinating worker organizing across the region to help workers participate in collective action. Their goal is to exchange lessons among workers within the region, develop the infrastructure of the general workforce, and assist those who organize through and outside the NLRB.carol says In this day and age, We hope that the rest of the labor movement will follow the UAW's inspiring lead and use this opportunity to mobilize the resources necessary to organize in the South. ”

The UAW continues to gain momentum from its Big 3 win. In addition to Volkswagen and Mercedes workers, workers at Hyundai in Alabama have also begun a union organizing drive. 30Percentage of workers who signed union recognition cards. The UAW has announced plans to organize all non-union auto plants in the region.

Jeremy Kimbrel, a Mercedes worker and member of the volunteer organizing committee, has been working at the Alabama plant for almost a year. twenty five Over the years, I have also been involved in organizing activities there.Kimbrel says In times like this Despite having lived in an anti-union state all my life, my [parents] You have instilled in me that you should not allow people to treat you in any way. My father was in the coal miners' union; his grandfather was in the coal miners' union. '30or '40I never doubted the power of unions because I shot a coal truck that was crossing the picket line. ”

But with the Mercedes union election approaching and the UAW's big victory at Volkswagen, Alabama's bosses and politicians are stepping up their union-busting stance. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey posted on X (formerly Twitter): The UAW is not the good guys here,” he called on the union. They are corrupt, cunning, and dangerous leeches. ” Ivey also wrote an editorial that read in part: The Alabama model for economic success is under attack. The United Auto Workers (UAW), the national autoworkers union, is ramping up its efforts to target nonunion automakers across the country, including those here in Alabama. ” Former Mercedes CEO Michael Goebel, who resigned at the end of last month, has also spoken out against unions, paying for anti-union signs near factories and creating an anti-union website. The same goes for special interest business groups that have been established.

“Politicians say they represent the people, but they say workers aren't getting their fair share of the labor. That doesn't work.” —UAW President Sean Fein

Mercedes employees aren't just fighting their bosses or an unfriendly political climate, they're up against both, and you can't change one without the other.carol says: It is not difficult to attribute the reactionary politics that dominate the region to the lack of organization and power of the working class. ” And such power is difficult to obtain when the political situation is so fraught. But workers continue to fight, hoping to shut out the noise from right-wing politicians and the Alabama Chamber of Commerce. The Alabama Business Council has written op-eds against unions and even set up a website. “Alabama is strong,” and Alabama's auto industry is Your future is threatened by the UAW's efforts to impose its union ways on your lives. ”

UAW President Fein didn't mince words when referring to Alabama's governor and the state's economic council. These people are just puppets of corporate America and the billionaire class, and they are the reason workers don't get their fair share. Politicians say they represent the people, but they say workers don't deserve a fair share of the labor. That won't work. ”

Isaac Meadows, who has worked at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant for almost two years and is a member of the organizing committee, says of the union's efforts in Tennessee. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. Mercedes are facing a tougher battle than us. Often he feels like he's fighting alone and alone, but that's not the case. There's a lot of support inside and outside so he should keep fighting and keep doing the good work, it'll be worth it in the end. ”

Meadows says it could be another domino in Labour's plans to organize the South ahead of the vote. In times like this What he wants Mercedes employees to know: This is not it [the politicians’] decision. It's our decision. They don't work in these factories. I have issued an invitation to one of these governors. Come work next to me for a day and watch me work. So far, none of them have taken me up on it. ”



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