News & Commentary

April 3, 2024

Everest Fang

Everest Fang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: Mercedes workers in Alabama plan to file for a union vote this week, the United Steelworkers reject efforts to win their support for a takeover of U.S. Steel, and Kaiser Hospitals residents and fellows in Northern California file for an election. 

Yesterday, Reuters reported that factory workers at Mercedes Benz’s assembly plant in Alabama plan to file a petition for a union vote this week. The workers are pressing forward in their effort to organize with the United Auto Workers (UAW), after encountering significant resistance from the company. As Elyse wrote on Monday, UAW filed unfair labor practice charges against Mercedes-Benz Group, alleging “aggressive and illegal union busting.” Nonetheless, as of late February, a majority of about 6,000 workers at the plant had signed cards to join the union. Organizing the Mercedes plant is part of UAW’s broader goal to expand beyond the Detroit Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler parent Stellantis), starting with Volkswagen and Mercedes. A vote at Mercedes would follow a similar push at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Tennessee, where voting is scheduled to end on April 19.

The United Steelworkers union (USW) is maintaining its opposition to a Japanese steelmaker’s $14.1 billion acquisition of United States Steel Corp. Yesterday, the union publicly dismissed a letter from Nippon Steel Corp. as a “meaningless piece of paper,” despite its expressed commitments to job protection. Nippon Steel had called the March 27 letter a “binding commitment,” as it seeks to build support for the politically-sensitive deal. USW leadership rejected the company’s characterization of the letter, saying: “It is instead nothing more than another collection of empty promises and open-ended language that would enable it to skirt obligations to workers and retirees.” Nippon Steel’s new president has pledged to press ahead with the takeover, despite opposition from President Joe Biden, who has said that US Steel should be American-owned.

Hundreds of medical residents and fellows at Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Northern California are formalizing their efforts to unionize. Yesterday, representatives of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) filed paperwork with the NLRB that would kick off a union certification vote. Medical residency is notoriously demanding and low-paid, with doctors often working up to 80 hours a week for roughly $60,000-$80,000 a year in the Bay Area. If the unionization effort succeeds, CIR would represent nearly 500 Kaiser residents and fellows at Kaiser hospitals in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and several other Northern California locations. The effort is the latest in a nationwide trend of young physicians pushing their employers for better benefits, pay and working conditions.

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