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    Mercedes-Benz Workers in Alabama Ask for Unionization Vote

    The United Automobile Workers union is mounting its most ambitious effort to gain an industry foothold beyond Detroit’s Big Three.Workers at a Mercedes-Benz factory in Alabama have petitioned federal officials to hold a vote on whether to join the United Automobile Workers, the union said on Friday, a step forward for its drive to organize workers at car factories in the South.The union is trying to build on the momentum from the contracts it won last year at Ford Motor, General Motors and Stellantis, which gave workers at the three Detroit carmakers their biggest raises in decades.The U.A.W. is also trying to organize workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee and a Hyundai factory in Alabama, establishing a bigger presence in states that have drawn much of the new investment in automobile manufacturing in recent decades. A vote at the Volkswagen plant is scheduled for April 17 to 19.The drive has taken on added importance as Southern states like South Carolina and Georgia attract billions of dollars in investment in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing. The U.A.W. is trying to ensure that jobs created by electric vehicles do not pay less than jobs at traditional auto factories.A large majority of workers at the Mercedes plant, near Tuscaloosa, had earlier signed cards expressing support for a vote. On Friday they formally petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election on whether to be represented by the U.A.W., the union said.Mercedes, which makes luxury sport utility vehicles in Alabama, said in a statement that it “fully respects our team members’ choice whether to unionize” and that it would ensure that workers had “access to the information necessary to make an informed choice.”Southern states have traditionally been difficult territory for unions, in some cases because of legislation unfavorable to organized labor or because elected officials openly campaigned against unions. The lack of a strong union presence is probably one reason the region has attracted a big share of auto industry investment.Attempts in 2014 and 2019 to organize Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, where the German company makes the Atlas sport utility vehicle and ID.4 electric S.U.V., failed in part because of opposition from Republican elected officials in Tennessee.Toyota, Volkswagen and other carmakers raised hourly wages after the union won pay increases for Ford, G.M. and Stellantis workers. Still, the nonunion workers tend to earn less. In many cases, pay is less of an issue than work schedules, health benefits and time off.In a video on Friday, the U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, said workers were fighting for “work-life balance, good health care you can afford, a better life for your family.”The union has complained to the National Labor Relations Board that Mercedes has retaliated against organizers in Alabama. The carmaker denied the accusations, saying it “has not interfered with or retaliated against any team member in their right to pursue union representation.” More

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    Poor Nations Are Writing a New Handbook for Getting Rich

    Economies focused on exports have lifted millions out of poverty, but epochal changes in trade, supply chains and technology are making it a lot harder.For more than half a century, the handbook for how developing countries can grow rich hasn’t changed much: Move subsistence farmers into manufacturing jobs, and then sell what they produce to the rest of the world.The recipe — customized in varying ways by Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and China — has produced the most potent engine the world has ever known for generating economic growth. It has helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, create jobs and raise standards of living.The Asian Tigers and China succeeded by combining vast pools of cheap labor with access to international know-how and financing, and buyers that reached from Kalamazoo to Kuala Lumpur. Governments provided the scaffolding: They built up roads and schools, offered business-friendly rules and incentives, developed capable administrative institutions and nurtured incipient industries.But technology is advancing, supply chains are shifting, and political tensions are reshaping trade patterns. And with that, doubts are growing about whether industrialization can still deliver the miracle growth it once did. For developing countries, which contain 85 percent of the globe’s population — 6.8 billion people — the implications are profound.Today, manufacturing accounts for a smaller share of the world’s output, and China already does more than a third of it. At the same time, more emerging countries are selling inexpensive goods abroad, increasing competition. There are not as many gains to be squeezed out: Not everyone can be a net exporter or offer the world’s lowest wages and overhead.Robotics at a car factory in China. Today, manufacturing accounts for a smaller share of the world’s output, and China already does more than a third of it. Qilai Shen for The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Strike Madness’ Hits Germany While Its Economy Stumbles

    A wave of strikes by German workers, feeling the sting of inflation and stagnant growth, is the latest sign of the bleak outlook for Europe’s economic powerhouse.For those striking at the gates of the SRW scrap metal plant, just outside Germany’s eastern city of Leipzig, time can be counted not just in days — 136 so far — but in the thousands of card games played, the liters of coffee imbibed and the armfuls of firewood burned.Or it can be measured by the length of Jonny Bohne’s beard. He vows not to shave until he returns to the job he has held for two decades. Wearing his red union baseball cap and tending the blaze inside an oil drum, Mr. Bohne, 56, looks like a scruffy Santa Claus.The dozens of workers at the SRW recycling center say their strike has become the longest in postwar German history — a dubious honor in a nation with a history of harmonious labor relations. (The previous record, 114 days, was held by shipyard workers in the northern city of Kiel who struck in the 1950s.)Jonny Bohne has vowed not to shave while on strike. It’s been awhile.Ingmar Nolting for The New York TimesWhile monthslong strikes may be commonplace in some other European countries like Spain, Belgium or France, where workers’ protests are something of a national pastime, Germany has long prided itself on nondisruptive collective bargaining.A wave of strikes this year has Germans asking whether that is now changing. By some measures, the first three months of 2024 have had the most strikes in the country in 25 years.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    The Global Effort to Make an American Microchip

    Semiconductors are vital to the modern economy, powering everything from video games and cars to supercomputers and weapons systems. The Biden administration is investing $39 billion to help companies build more factories in the United States to bring more of this supply chain back home. But even after U.S. facilities are built, chip manufacturing will […] More

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    Rivian Will Delay Construction of a $5 Billion Factory in Georgia

    The money-losing electric vehicle company, which makes vans, trucks and S.U.V.s, is trying to preserve cash as it works to produce and sell more affordable vehicles.Rivian, a young electric vehicle company, said on Thursday that it was halting construction of a new factory in Georgia. The company also announced two new models, one of which will now be produced at its plant in Illinois.The company had nearly completed preparing the roughly 2,000-acre site in Georgia that is about 50 miles east of Atlanta, and it was expecting to break ground on the $5 billion plant this year.But the growth of electric vehicle sales has slowed in the past six months, forcing many automakers to reassess their plans for new factories and models.Rivian said delaying the Georgia plant would save it about $2.25 billion, a large sum from a business that has been losing billions of dollars for several years. The company said it was committed to building the plant but did not say when it hoped to restart construction.“Our Georgia site remains really important to us,” Rivian’s chief executive, R.J. Scaringe, said at an event on Thursday where he unveiled two new sport-utility vehicles. “It’s core to scaling across all these vehicles.”One of the S.U.V.s, called the R2, is a five-passenger vehicle that is expected to be available in the first half of 2026. Originally, the R2 was supposed to be the first vehicle produced in Georgia. Shifting production to Normal, Ill., where the company has an operating factory, will allow Rivian to begin delivering the vehicle to customers sooner, Mr. Scaringe said.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    After Gains at Big Three, U.A.W. Aims at Nonunion Plants

    A looming union election at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga could determine the trajectory of union organizing at more than a dozen auto factories.When Shawn Fain, the United Automobile Workers president, unveiled the deal that ended six weeks of strikes at Ford Motor in the fall, he framed it as part of a longer campaign. Next, he declared, would be the task of organizing nonunion plants across the country.“One of our biggest goals coming out of this historic contract victory is to organize like we’ve never organized before,” he said at the time. “When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big Three. It will be the Big Five or Big Six.”Four months later, the first test of that strategy has come into focus, and it features a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.According to the union, more than half of over 4,000 eligible workers have signed cards indicating support for a union. Workers say they have done so because they want higher pay, more paid time off and more generous health benefits — and because the recent strikes at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis persuaded them that a union can help win these concessions.“The Big Three, they had their big campaign, and their big strike and vote, and new contracts — we paid attention to that very closely,” said Yolanda Peoples, who has worked at the Volkswagen plant for nearly 13 years.The Volkswagen plant announced an 11 percent pay increase shortly after the strikes at the Big Three. The raise brought the top hourly wage for production workers to $32.40, but the comparable wage for the Detroit automakers will exceed $40 by the end of the new contracts. (Volkswagen said the wage adjustment was part of a yearly review.)We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    New Freighters Could Ease Red Sea Cargo Disruptions

    Analysts and shipping executives say they expect costs to fall later this year as companies receive vessels they ordered two to three years ago.After the Houthi militia started attacking container ships in the Red Sea last year, the cost of shipping goods from Asia soared by over 300 percent, prompting fears that supply chain disruptions might once again roil the global economy.The Houthis, who are backed by Iran and control northern Yemen, continue to threaten ships, forcing many to take a much longer route around Africa’s southern tip. But there are signs that the world will probably avoid a drawn-out shipping crisis.One reason for the optimism is that a huge number of container ships, ordered two to three years ago, are entering service. Those extra vessels are expected to help shipping companies maintain regular service as their ships travel longer distances. The companies ordered the ships when the extraordinary surge in world trade that occurred during the pandemic created enormous demand for their services.“There’s a lot of available capacity out there, in ports and ships and containers,” said Brian Whitlock, a senior director and analyst at Gartner, a research firm that specializes in logistics.Shipping costs remain elevated, but some analysts expect the robust supply of new ships to push down rates later this year.Before the attacks, ships from Asia would traverse the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, which typically handles an estimated 30 percent of global container traffic, to reach European ports. Now, most go around the Cape of Good Hope, making those trips 20 to 30 percent longer, increasing fuel use and crew costs.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    For Michigan’s Economy, Electric Vehicles Are Promising and Scary

    Last fall, Tiffanie Simmons, a second-generation autoworker, endured a six-week strike at the Ford Motor factory just west of Detroit where she builds Bronco S.U.V.s. That yielded a pay raise of 25 percent over the next four years, easing the pain of reductions that she and other union workers swallowed more than a decade ago.But as Ms. Simmons, 38, contemplates prospects for the American auto industry in the state that invented it, she worries about a new force: the shift toward electric vehicles. She is dismayed that the transition has been championed by President Biden, whose pro-labor credentials are at the heart of his bid for re-election, and who recently gained the endorsement of her union, the United Automobile Workers.The Biden administration has embraced electric vehicles as a means of generating high-paying jobs while cutting emissions. It has dispensed tax credits to encourage consumers to buy electric cars, while limiting the benefits to models that use American-made parts.But autoworkers fixate on the assumption that electric cars — simpler machines than their gas-powered forebears — will require fewer hands to build. They accuse Mr. Biden of jeopardizing their livelihoods.“I was disappointed,” Ms. Simmons said of the president. “We trust you to make sure that Americans are employed.”Tiffanie Simmons works in Wayne, Mich., at a Ford Motor factory that builds Broncos.Nick Hagen for The New York TimesMs. Simmons’s union has endorsed President Biden, but “I was disappointed” in him, she said.Nick Hagen for The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More