An employee uses a robotic arm to help lift internal parts

An employee uses a robotic arm to help lift internal parts for a Mercedes-Benz C-Class at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International factory in Vance, Alabama on June 8, 2017.

(Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Alabama Mercedes-Benz Workers Accuse Company of Union-Busting in NLRB Complaint

"It's just plain retaliation from Mercedes, but I'm not going to be intimidated," said one worker.

A month after the United Auto Workers announced that a majority of workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama had signed union cards, employees struck a defiant tone Tuesday as they filed official complaints of union-busting by the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

Workers detailed the illegal disciplinary measures management has taken against them for taking leave and objecting to anti-union materials that have been shown in captive-audience meetings since most of the plant's 6,000 workers indicated they want to join the UAW.

"Since we started organizing, I put in my [Family and Medical Leave Act] leave with management multiple times and every time they said they lost the paperwork," Lakeisha Carter, who works in the company's battery plant, told the UAW. "It's just plain retaliation from Mercedes, but I'm not going to be intimidated."

The U.S. Department of Labor last month recovered $438,625 in back pay, unpaid bonuses, and damages for two people who had formerly worked at the plant in Vance, finding that management had illegally fired the workers when they requested FMLA-protected leave to care for a family member and recover from a serious health condition.

After winning new contracts for workers at the Big 3 automakers last fall following an historic "stand-up strike," the UAW has launched campaigns at non-unionized plants owned by Mercedes, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Toyota, convincing more than 10,000 autoworkers so far to sign union cards.

Another battery plant worker, Taylor Snipes, told the UAW that managers at the company were forcing him and his coworkers "to attend meetings and watch anti-union videos that are full of lies."

After he objected, Snipes was called into a meeting and "immediately fired for having his phone on the factory floor," even though he had been given permission to have his phone with him so he could be in touch with his child's daycare center.

"I told management that it was suspicious that I was being called into the office on the same day that I spoke up in anti-union meeting," said Snipes. "My manager said the two had nothing to do with one another, but then proceeded to aggressively interrogate me about why I support having a union."

UAW President Shawn Fain met with Mercedes workers in Alabama on Sunday.

"Unlike previous drives, the workers are in command," said Luis Feliz Leon of Labor Notes. "They are the collective force that will either press on to a union victory or a defeat."

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