The push to unionize at Tuscaloosa's Mercedes Benz U.S. International has spread like wildfire and a supermajority of workers there have officially filed to vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers.

A spokesperson for the UAW said there are more than 5,000 workers at the plant, and after 70 percent of them expressed interest in unionizing, they filed with the National Labor Relations Board for a vote to join the UAW Friday morning.

The seismic shift comes on the heels of the union's massive strike at Detroit's Big 3 automakers last year - their successful negotiations there also led to historic contracts for workers. MBUSI isn't the only place feeling aftershocks, either. Tennessee Volkswagen workers filed a similar petition with the NLRB last month and their vote to unionize will be held later in April.

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The Friday announcement was supplemented by a video showing UAW President Shawn Fain telling workers about the vote at a recent rally and statements from MBUSI employees about why they support unionizing.

“We are standing up for every worker in Alabama," MBUSI measurement machine operator Jeremy Kimbrell said. "At Mercedes, at Hyundai, and at hundreds of other companies, Alabama workers have made billions of dollars for executives and shareholders, but we haven’t gotten our fair share. We’re going to turn things around with this vote. We’re going to end the Alabama discount.”

“We are voting for safer jobs at Mercedes,” said Moesha Chandler, an assembly team member at MBUSI. “I’m still young, but I’m already having serious problems with my shoulders and hands. When you’re still in your twenties and your body is breaking down, that’s not right. By winning our union, we’ll have the power to make the work safer and more sustainable.”

The push to get a supermajority of workers - 70 percent - at the plant to express interest in unionizing happened fast. UAW launched the campaign in January, got 50 percent of workers to sign cards by February and has already hit their supermajority goal - enough to lead to Friday's petition to the NLRB.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and other business leaders have been vocally opposed to the UAW's efforts to organize the Mercedes workers.

The UAW and workers at the plant have also accused local leadership and Mercedes Benz in Germany of illegal union-busting since efforts ramped up this year.

“We’re going to make Mercedes better with this vote,” Jacob Ryan, a KVP team member at Mercedes. “Right now, the company keeps losing good people because they force them to work Saturdays at the last second, to take shifts that mess with their family lives. And the only choice people have is to take it or quit. With the union, we’ll have a voice for fair schedules that keep workers at Mercedes.”

For more on the unionization effort as it develops, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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