More stories

  • in

    A Loss at Mercedes-Benz Slows U.A.W.’s Southern Campaign

    After Mercedes workers voted against joining the United Automobile Workers, the union will have less momentum as it campaigns to organize Southern factories.After suffering a setback at two Mercedes-Benz plants in Alabama on Friday, the United Automobile Workers union’s efforts to organize other auto factories in the South is likely to slow and could struggle to make headway.About 56 percent of the Mercedes workers who voted rejected the U.A.W. in an election after the union chalked up two major wins this year. In April, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voted to join the union, the first large nonunion auto plant in the South to do so. Weeks later, the union negotiated a new contract bringing significant pay and benefit improvements for its members at several North Carolina factories owned by Daimler Truck.“Losing at Mercedes is not death for the union,” said Arthur Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “It just means they’ll have less confidence going to the next plant. The U.A.W. is in it for the long run. I don’t think they’re going to stop just because they lost here.”Since its founding in 1935, the U.A.W. has almost exclusively represented workers employed by the three Michigan-based automakers: General Motors, Ford Motor, and Chrysler, now part of Stellantis. And it has long struggled to make headway at plants owned by foreign manufacturers, especially in Southern states where anti-union sentiment runs deep.Workers at the Volkswagen plant had voted against being represented by the U.A.W. twice by narrow margins before the recent union win there. An effort a decade ago to organize one of the Mercedes plants failed to build enough support for an election.Harley Shaiken, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that broad union organizing efforts seldom proceeded smoothly. In the 1930s, the U.A.W. won recognition at G.M. and Chrysler but struggled at Ford, which continued employing nonunion workers for a few 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

  • in

    Could the Union Victory at VW Set Off a Wave?

    Some experts say the outcome at a plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., may be organized labor’s most significant advance in decades. But the road could get rockier.By voting to join the United Automobile Workers, Volkswagen workers in Tennessee have given the union something it has never had: a factory-wide foothold at a major foreign automaker in the South.The result, in an election that ended on Friday, will enable the union to bargain for better wages and benefits. Now the question is what difference it will make beyond the Volkswagen plant.Labor experts said success at VW might position the union to replicate its showing at other auto manufacturers throughout the South, the least unionized region of the country. Some argued that the win could help set off a rise in union membership at other companies that exceeds the uptick of the past few years, when unions won elections at Starbucks and Amazon locations.“It’s a big vote, symbolically and substantively,” said Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist who studies labor at Washington University in St. Louis.The next test for the U.A.W. will come in a vote in mid-May at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.In addition, at least 30 percent of workers have signed cards authorizing the U.A.W. to represent them at a Hyundai plant in Alabama and a Toyota plant in Missouri, according to the union. That is the minimum needed to force an election, though the union has yet to petition for one in either location.“People only take action when they believe there is an alternative to the status quo that has a plausible chance of winning,” said Barry Eidlin, a sociologist at McGill University in Montreal.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

  • in

    VW Workers in Tennessee Vote for Union

    The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga is set to become the first unionized auto factory in the South not owned by one of Detroit’s Big Three.In a landmark victory for organized labor, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee have voted overwhelmingly to join the United Automobile Workers union, becoming the first nonunion auto plant in a Southern state to do so.The company said in a statement late Friday that the union had won 2,628 votes, with 985 opposed, in a three-day election. Two earlier bids by the U.A.W. to organize the Chattanooga factory over the last 10 years were narrowly defeated.The outcome is a breakthrough for the labor movement in a region where anti-union sentiment has been strong for decades. And it comes six months after the U.A.W. won record wage gains and improved benefits in negotiations with the Detroit automakers.The U.A.W. has for more than 80 years represented workers employed by General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, the producer of Chrysler, Jeep, Ram and Dodge vehicles, and has organized some heavy-truck and bus factories in the South.But the union had failed in previous attempts to organize any of the two dozen automobile factories owned by other companies across an area stretching from South Carolina to Texas and as far north as Ohio and Indiana.With the victory in Chattanooga, the U.A.W. will turn its focus to other Southern plants. A vote will take place in mid-May at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., near Tuscaloosa. The U.A.W. is hoping to organize a half-dozen or more plants over the next two 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

  • in

    VW Workers in Tennessee Start Vote on U.A.W., Testing Union Ambitions

    The United Automobile Workers hopes contract gains at the Big Three carmakers will provide momentum in a broad effort to organize nonunion plants.Last fall the United Automobile Workers union won big pay increases from the Detroit automakers, and the impact rippled quickly through the nonunion auto plants scattered across the South.Afterward, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Nissan, Hyundai and Tesla raised wages for their own hourly workers in the United States, none of whom are unionized. On production lines in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and elsewhere, those pay increases have been referred to as the “U.A.W. bump.”Now 4,300 workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., will test whether the union can achieve an even greater bump. On Wednesday, they begin voting on whether to join the U.A.W., and the prospects of a union victory appear high. About 70 percent of the workers pledged to vote yes before the union asked for a vote, according to the U.A.W.“I think our chances are excellent,” said Kelcey Smith, 48, who has worked in the VW plant’s paint department for a year and is a member of a committee working to build support for the U.A.W. “The energy is high. I think we are going to nail it.”Volkswagen has presented reasons it believes a union is not needed at the plant, including pay that is above average for the Chattanooga region. But it has also said it encourages all workers to vote in the election, which is to conclude on Friday, and decide for themselves. “No one will lose their job for voting for or against the union,” a company spokesman said.The stakes go beyond the Tennessee plant, Volkswagen’s only U.S. factory. A victory there would add fuel to the U.A.W.’s push to extend its presence to the more than two dozen nonunion auto plants in the United States, mostly clustered in Southern states where union resistance has been strong historically, and where right-to-work laws make it hard for unions to organize workers.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

  • in

    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

  • in

    Kate Shindle on Why She’s Stepping Down as Actors’ Equity President

    After nine years in the role, she has decided not to seek re-election in May. Her departure comes amid significant turnover in the theater industry.Kate Shindle, who has served as president of Actors’ Equity Association for nine years, is stepping down after a tenure dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that for a time idled all of the labor union’s members.Shindle, 47, said she expected to remain active in the labor movement, but that she was eager to resume working as an actor. The Equity presidency, leading a union that represents more than 51,000 theater actors and stage managers nationwide, is an unpaid, volunteer position. Because of the time required to manage the crises facing the union’s members, Shindle has worked so little as an actor that she hasn’t even qualified for her own union’s health insurance coverage.Her departure comes amid significant turnover in the theater industry. Charlotte St. Martin recently left her position as president of the Broadway League, which is the trade association most often on the opposite side of the bargaining table with Equity, and the heads of many nonprofit theaters are also leaving their positions.“It feels like it’s time,” Shindle said. “We’ve accomplished a lot. And I think turnover is good for organizations. I’ve never been one who wanted to stay until the members threw me out.”Shindle, a former Miss America, will wrap up her third and final term on May 23. These are edited excerpts from an interview.Equity imposed very strict rules during the pandemic that had the effect of limiting performance around the country. In hindsight, how do you think about Equity’s role in the state of theater over those 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

  • in

    U.S. Judge Blocks Rule Extending Reach of Labor Law to Franchisers

    The ruling upends the National Labor Relations Board’s move to broaden the standard for determining when a company is liable for labor law violations.A federal judge, siding with business lobbying groups, has blocked a rule that would broaden the reach of federal labor law to make big franchisers like McDonald’s responsible for the conditions of workers they have not directly hired.The judge, J. Campbell Barker of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, on Friday vacated a rule issued by the National Labor Relations Board determining when a company is a joint employer, making it liable under labor law for the working conditions of those hired by a franchisee or provided by a staffing agency. He said the rule, which was to go into effect Monday, was too broad.The decision by Judge Barker, a nominee of former President Donald J. Trump, keeps in place a more business-friendly standard for assigning legal liability.Unions and employees support the rule because it makes it easier to bargain for better conditions, while franchisers say it would disrupt their business model.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which led a group of business groups challenging the rule, applauded the ruling. “It will prevent businesses from facing new liabilities related to workplaces they don’t control, and workers they don’t actually employ,” Suzanne P. Clark, chief executive of the chamber, said in a statement.The labor board’s chair, Lauren McFerran, who was named by President Biden, said in a statement that the ruling was “a disappointing setback,” but “not the last word” on the joint-employer standard. If the board appeals the ruling, the case would move to the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The labor agency pushed for the case to be moved to Washington, but Judge Barker denied that request.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

  • in

    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