October 2, 2014 / 8:19 PM / in 3 years

UPDATE 2-UAW, German labor to announce Daimler Alabama drive -sources

(Adds UAW confirmation of plan to create union local, Daimler no comment)

By Bernie Woodall and Jan Schwartz

DETROIT/BERLIN, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers and two German labor groups on Friday will announce plans to work together to organize Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz plant workers in Alabama, sources close to one of the German labor groups said on Thursday.

The move would be similar to efforts by the UAW and German labor to organize the Volkswagen AG plant in Tennessee.

The UAW hopes to eventually represent Daimler workers in Alabama in negotiations with the luxury automaker. There are about 2,500 full-time and 1,000 temporary workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Daimler works council chief Michael Brecht along with top UAW and German union IG Metall officials will announce the alliance in Tuscaloosa on Friday afternoon, sources said. The UAW confirmed an announcement would take place on Friday but did not elaborate.

Reuters reported last week that the groups would work together and that Brecht, who is also deputy chairman of the German luxury automaker, would meet with UAW officials in Alabama.

This week, the UAW said it has signed a letter to work in alliance with IG Metall and the Volkswagen global works council to help the UAW organize the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The U.S. union has fostered its alliance with IG Metall since 2009 when the UAW’s president was Ron Gettelfinger and throughout Bob King’s four-year term that ended in June when current President Dennis Williams took office.

Williams will appear on Friday with Brecht and Joerg Hofmann, vice president of IG Metall and a member of the Daimler supervisory board, the UAW said.

The Detroit-based UAW sees the alliance with IG Metall and the works council labor groups at Daimler and VW as the best way to organize the German-owned plants in the U.S. South.

A Daimler spokeswoman on Thursday declined to comment.

Daimler officials in the past have said the company would not recognize the UAW without the vote of a majority of the Alabama plant’s workers.

Harley Shaiken, labor professor at the University of California-Berkeley, said he believed “important elements of what the UAW and Volkswagen have done in Chattanooga, the UAW wlll seek to do in Alabama. One big difference ... is that Mercedes has not moved into this the way that Volkswagen has.”

After it lost an election to represent VW workers in Tennessee in February, the UAW formed a union local for VW workers in Chattanooga. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel last week said that Local 42 in Chattanooga now has more than half the hourly workers at the VW plant as members.

Casteel confirmed that the U.S. union will follow suit and create a union local in Alabama for Daimler workers and that the new local would lead the effort to organize workers over time.

Analyst Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan said this appears to be the UAW’s method for organizing in the South.

“It’s a patient, long-term strategy to put down roots in the communities,” she said. “When local union leadership is drawn from the local workforce, it negates the ‘outsider’ view of the UAW.” (Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit and Jan Schwartz in Berlin; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and David Gregorio)

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