The United Auto Workers has won a small victory in its ongoing efforts to organize workers at Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, courtesy of a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The decision upheld an earlier ruling that Mercedes violated federal labor laws by preventing UAW supporters from distributing literature inside its Alabama plant.
It also mandates that Mercedes update its employee handbook to say that workers are allowed to discuss union issues during non-work times and that they can solicit their colleagues in mixed-use areas like team centers and atriums.
Mercedes must also post notices at the plant acknowledging the violation and reaffirming that management won’t “interfere with, restrain, or coerce” workers seeking to unionize the plant.
Both side proclaimed the ruling supported their assertions about the issue.
Daimler AG said in a statement the NLRB’s decision “confirms the initial ruling that MBUSI did not threaten or harass team members.
“At no time has MBUSI’s Team Member handbook prohibited Team Members from discussing unions or any other topic,” Daimler spokeswoman Andrea Berg said. “The old version of the handbook was unclear regarding rules for solicitation and this has been addressed in the 2014 handbook recently distributed to team members. As always, MBUSI will remain neutral on unions with the decision left to our team members.”
However, the UAW noted in its statement the new order “affirms a decision last summer by a judge who ruled that the MBUSI employee handbook included a provision illegally prohibiting employees from discussing a union.
“Mercedes-Benz employees now can freely solicit other employees — not on working time, but in a work area — in accordance with federal law. The NLRB ordered Mercedes-Benz to inform employees that it had violated federal labor law and also to tell employees that they are free to “form, join or assist a union,” the union statement noted.
Members of UAW Local 112 in Tuscaloosa, the new local the UAW created in October at the plant, described the NLRB order as a positive development.
“It’s unfortunate that Mercedes-Benz had to be ordered to simply allow workers to discuss their right to organize,” said Kirk Garner a longtime Mercedes-Benz employee and member of UAW Local 112 who served as a witness in the NLRB case.
“But this is an important development for UAW Local 112 and we’re hopeful it can be a turning point for honoring workers’ rights in Alabama, as Daimler does elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world,” he said.
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The UAW, which is getting extensive help from German unions in its latest campaign in Tuscaloosa, also called on Daimler AG to abide by its global Principles of Social Responsibility and respect the right of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International employees to organize a local union at the Tuscaloosa plant.
The union has been attempting to organize workers at the plant since it first opened 20 years, but only recently has it made some headway. That progress has been made, in part, with the assistance of German metal workers union, IG Metall, which has exerted new pressure on German-based companies to accept union representation at non-union plants in the Southern United States.
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IG Metall recently helped the UAW gain a foothold at the Volkswagen of America plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The UAW had lost a representation election in Chattanooga in February, but VW recently announced it would recognize the UAW as representative of a portion of the plant’s employees and meet regularly with officers of the local the UAW has established at the plant.
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The new VW policy does not recognize the UAW as an agent for bargaining an economic contract. The policy also follows German practices and makes room for representation by groups or union other than the UAW, VW officials said.