Will Union Workers See the Light In Time to Save the American Economy?

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National Labor Relations Board to Begin Hearings on Workers Complaint Against Mercedes April 7


Don White speaks to Mercedes workers and union representatives at a press conference on anti-union harassment by German company management: Glynn Wilson

By Glynn Wilson –

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Union workers and members of the public who understand the important role organized labor plays in public affairs across America will be watching to see what happens when the National Labor Relations Board begins hearings next week on charges that Mercedes corporate officials in Vance interferred with employees in the exercise of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The hearing is set to begin on Monday, April 7, at 10 a.m. in the Birmingham regional office.

Mercedes workers who are trying to organize a union in Alabama held a press conference in February to announce their support for the complaint, which says that Mercedes-Benz U.S. International interfered with employees’ rights by prohibiting them from talking about unionizing during work time, threatening employees with termination if they discussed the union during work time, and threatening employees up to and including termination if they solicited for the union inside the plant.

We were there to cover the event and provided more complete, comprehensive coverage than any news organization in the U.S.

Mercedes Workers Testify About Illegal, Threatening Anti-Union Activity by German Company Management

The plant near Tuscaloosa is the only Mercedes production plant in the world where workers are not unionized.

“We’ve been intimated. They use scare tactics. They scare the rest of my team members,” George Jones, a former union president who has worked at Mercedes for more than 17 years, said. “If we had the opportunity to freely express ourselves and enlighten the team members on the importance of being in a union (and if Mercedes management were actually behaving neutrally as their global policy states) we would be unionized.”

Workers and their supporters say the company’s treatment of Mercedes workers also violates the company’s own internal global policy, the Principles of Social Responsibility, which is an agreement between parent company Daimler and its workforce that says management is to remain “neutral” during organizing campaigns at its facilities around the globe.

Jim Spitzley, who has worked at Mercedes for more than 17 years in the Quality Department, said he sees more support for the union now than ever before, but he knows that management’s scare tactics have had a profound, negative effect on the campaign. He talked about the intimidation of workers, fear mongering on behalf of management, threatening remarks about workers not being promoted and even fired if they even so much as mention the idea of forming a union.

“This has to be stopped,” Spitzley said. “We do want a voice in our work place.”

Since the Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision in 2010, in which a majority of conservative, Republican justices granted corporations the same rights as individuals with the unlimited power to give money to politicians in unregulated amounts, unions have become even more important in American political life since unions were also mentioned many times in the court’s decision.

The problem is that since the mainstream media in America and places like Alabama will not tell people the whole story about the impact of that decision, many union and non-union workers do not realize that they often vote against their own economic best interests on election day.

Why Do Working Class People Vote Against Their Economic Interests?

As we have pointed out many, many times over the past few years, unions are about the only organizations now with the legal authority to tackle fighting corporations in their greedy drive to privatize everything in American life for their own profits. It is unbridled corporate capitalism at its worst, creating a world where no one at the top can be held accountable for the failure of our economic system.

At least if government were allowed to be involved in the economy, politicians could be held accountable on election day. Not so with company CEOs, who answer to no one but stockholders who also gain from policies driven by profit statements without regard to the welfare of workers or the economy at large.

Unfortunately, a majority of blue collar union workers in America tend to vote for the very people who would literally break up the unions and drive wages and working conditions down even further, the same conservative, Republicans who are even fighting an increase in the minimum wage in Congress.

Until union workers get it together and start helping the rest of us in the fight to change the United States back into an egalitarian democracy where workers matter, our economy and political system will continue to languish.

Read more about the case here.

At least some workers in Southern states like Alabama are starting to see the light. See more coverage and watch the videos of the press conference here.

Mercedes Workers Testify About Illegal, Threatening Anti-Union Activity by German Company Management

In a related case, the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled again that a big money Republican donor in Alabama may give unlimited amounts to politicians.

Supreme Court’s rejection of U.S. campaign funding limits opens door for big-money donors

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.