EDITOR'S NOTE: This op-ed was submitted for publication by former Alabama governor Jim Folsom, who was in office when Tuscaloosa successfully recruited Mercedes-Benz to build their then-$300 million plant here in 1993.

Folsom submits this letter as thousands of workers at MBUSI vote this week on whether to join the United Auto Workers Union. Submit news tips and columns here or to stephen.dethrage@townsquaremedia.com.

“Take a Look and Get Educated about the Upcoming Union Vote in Alabama.
By Former Alabama Governor Jim Folsom 

Alabama autoworkers should heed the warning bells ringing from New Jersey. Recent events at a Nissan facility in the Garden State serve as a stark reminder that promises made by the United Auto Workers (UAW) may not always translate into reality for hardworking employees. In a decisive move, a majority of workers, 70% to be exact, voted to decertify the UAW at their facility, citing feelings of being ignored and lied to. 

The story from New Jersey is a cautionary tale for all autoworkers, especially those here in Alabama. It underscores the importance of critically evaluating the promises and actions of any union seeking to represent your interests. The UAW can pledge the world during organizing efforts, but recent events demonstrate that they are under no obligation to uphold those pledges. 

The disillusionment among Nissan workers in New Jersey stemmed from a bitter realization: promises made by the UAW were not necessarily promises kept. Despite assurances of advocacy and support, workers felt neglected and deceived. They learned the hard way that the union's promises were not binding, leaving them vulnerable and without the representation they had hoped for. 

The UAW is interested in membership, not in the well-being of workers. Consider last year’s UAW strike in Michigan. The union and its cheerleaders in the media heralded it as a victory. But the Big Three automakers have since announced 18,000 layoffs. Meanwhile, Ford is no contemplating expansion outside of the U.S. to avoid the UAW’s unreasonable demands. How does that help workers? Answer: It doesn’t. 

The UAW claims it advocates for workers. Yet it spent ten times more on travel, hotels, and restaurants for executives than it did on advocacy over the past decade. Guess where that money comes from. That’s right: from union dues, which come directly out of workers’ paychecks and could run upwards of $1,000 per year per employee.  

Alabama autoworkers cannot afford to ignore the lessons from New Jersey. Trusting blindly in the assurances of the UAW could lead to similar disappointment and frustration among Alabamians. As we witness the fallout from the decertification vote, it becomes clear that protecting worker freedoms and ensuring fair treatment in the workplace requires more than just rhetoric—it demands a thorough examination of the facts. 

Before placing your trust in the UAW or any other union, it is imperative to get the facts straight. Scrutinize the UAW’s track record (two past UAW presidents were sentenced to prison), assess their commitment to transparency and accountability (they cannot be held accountable), and evaluate whether their promises align with their actions (ask the laid off autoworkers in Michigan). Autoworkers in Alabama deserve nothing less than honesty and integrity from any organization vying for their support. 

Let us not allow history to repeat itself in Alabama. We must remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding our rights and interests. By staying informed and empowered, we can protect the integrity of Alabama jobs and ensure that our paychecks reflect the hard work and dedication we bring to the automotive industry. 

Do not be swayed by empty promises. Learn from the experiences of Nissan autoworkers in New Jersey and approach union organizing efforts with caution and discernment. Our livelihoods and futures are at stake, and it is imperative that we make informed decisions to safeguard them. Let us unite in our pursuit of fair treatment, transparency, and accountability in the workplace. 

For more coverage of the UAW vote as it unfolds this week, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

Top Stories from the Tuscaloosa Thread (5/6 - 5/13)

7 of the Top Stories published by the Tuscaloosa Thread during the 20th week of 2024, a peaceful and slow news week in west Alabama.

Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)