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What Two Recent UAW Votes Say About Union Organizing Efforts in the Southeast

    Client Alerts
  • June 07, 2024

In two high-profile union elections this year, the United Auto Workers went one for two. In April, workers at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant voted to unionize, while Mercedes-Benz employees in Alabama rejected the union’s petition last month. Do these votes reflect a new openness to union representation among workers in the Southeast?

The two UAW votes reflect a major effort by the union to address the trend of foreign automotive manufacturers locating facilities in the South. Workers in that section of the U.S. have historically been hostile to unions, resulting in the lowest rates of private sector unionized employees in the country. While the Mercedes-Benz vote continued this trend, the Volkswagen certification may reflect changing demographic forces, combined with economic factors that make union status more attractive to some employees.

Several states in the Southeast have responded to this trend by introducing legislation that would make it more difficult for unions to operate in their jurisdictions. Employers in this region should review their policies and procedures so that they can quickly respond in the event of suspected organizing activity. Executives and supervisors should be trained to spot organizing signs, and to understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of such activity. The UAW votes may not reflect a larger trend beyond very large and very visible manufacturers. However, these votes provide a good reason for all employers to update their strategies for responding to such organizing efforts.

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