The weeklong voting on whether the Mercedes Benz plant in Vance and battery plant in Woodstock will become union shops has ended. The 5,000 or so votes are being counted by the National labor Relations Board with results announced this afternoon.

United Auto Workers leadership is feeling optimistic about the outcome. They believe they are on a roll that will sweep non-union auto plants across the south into their fold. They believe they have parlayed an overwhelming organizing victory at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and a lucrative new contract at six Daimler Truck facilities across the South into a reconstruction of sorts of southern non-union industry

"If the union wins, they improve their momentum dramatically for future organizing," Harley Shaiken, labor professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told Auto Blog Magazine.

New UAW President Shawn fain has invested a tremendous amount of personal and financial capital in an aggressive and emotional effort to expand the union footprint into the anti-union south. That monetary investment amounts to $40 million, the personal capital amounts to Fain's reputation as a dominant, non-nonsense, often foul-mouthed, aggressive leader.

The vote is also a referendum on Fain's gameplan to organize from ground-up. not top down. He has put emphasis on the local worker to spearhead the organizing effort with national union support rather than heavy-handed national organizing where locals were not the main impetuous.

Fain has also used the major record-breaking strike victory over the "Big 3" automakers last year as a springboard to invading an area of the country that has long been mostly successful in repelling union efforts.

The longtime union electrician has also brought some controversy to his approach. Fain has gone all in for the Democratic Party despite some reservations and misgivings of some of his members, especially southerners.

During a union rally Fain summed up his belief, “Workers have realized they’ve been getting screwed for decades, and they’re fed up … If Volkswagen workers had Ford’s [new] agreement, they would have got $23,000 profit-sharing checks this year. Instead, they got zero … We made a big deal in the big three contract fight that these companies made a quarter trillion dollars in profits in the last decade. But the Japanese and Korean six [with US factories] made $480bn. The German three made $460bn in profits worldwide. Toyota alone made $256bn profit in the last decade. Their profit margins are obscenely more gross than they were at the big three, and yet their workers get less. I truly believe we’re going to see a huge shift this year. I think we’re gonna win in the south.”

Southern Republican leaders have not sat by passively. Gov. Kay Ivey and the governors of the six other GOP dominated states where Fain has targeted non-union auto plants have mounted an aggressive defense themselves. They issued a joint letter warning that allowing the union to move in will destroy the southern economic model of state economic incentives combined with a non-union workforce.

Fain has vowed to end that economic model and the governors have voiced fear if he does it could destroy the robust economies of Alabama and its neighbors.

Several state legislatures, including Alabama's, passed laws to keep companies from recognizing unions without a secret ballot vote such as the NLRB has conducted at Mercedes this week.

Mercedes has also mounted a multi-tiered defense themselves. The company's actions prompted a predictable reaction by the union, claiming strike busting actions. The union filed charges with the NLRB and with the German government. Investigations are ongoing.

The outcome today will be interesting. The organization effort at Volkswagen was successful largely because VW was relatively passive, Mercedes and state and local leaders in Alabama have been anything but passive. If the UAW wins it will mean more to further organizing efforts that the win at VW. But together it would light a fire under future organizing.

The south has been successful in blocking union intervention in the past but this effort by the UAW has a different feel to it. A UAW win at Mercedes would be another domino to fall under Fain's effort.  Hyundai in Montgomery is next. The workers there are watching Tuscaloosa closely today.

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