News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

9/24/2014 5:00 PM
By Associated Press

Mercedes labor chief seeks UAW foothold in Alabama

The head labor official on Daimler AG's supervisory board says he considers it "unacceptable" that the German automaker's Mercedes plant in Alabama stands alone among the company's factories around the world without union representation for its workers.

Michael Brecht, who took over as head of Daimler's works councils and as deputy chairman of the board in April, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that he supports the United Auto Workers' efforts to gain recognition at the plant located near Tuscaloosa.

"It's should be normal that we have a union at each of our plants," Brecht said in German. "We have very different behavior on the part of the company in some cases. In India we are in the process of founding a union for our plant there, and we have the support of the company that will happen."

"But in the USA, in the South, it is being resisted," he said. "It is unacceptable to me how the company is acting here."

Brecht's comments follow recent pronouncements by labor counterparts at fellow German automaker Volkswagen in support of the UAW organizing its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Under German law, labor representatives hold half the seats on corporations' supervisory boards.

The UAW lost a union election at the Volkswagen plant by a 712 to 626 vote in February following a contentious campaign waged by supporters and opponents of organized labor. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel has since announced the formation of a new local in Chattanooga, and said he expects Volkswagen to recognize the union without another vote once it signs up enough workers.

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