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Mercedes Changes Leadership At Alabama Plant After Union-Busting Claims

Mercedes workers in Alabama are just weeks away from voting to join the UAW

 Mercedes Changes Leadership At Alabama Plant After Union-Busting Claims

  • Mercedes reassigned the head of its U.S. manufacturing arm shortly before workers at its Alabama assembly plant vote on whether to join the UAW.
  • Earlier this week, the union accused Michael Goebel and Mercedes of anti-union activity.
  • Goebel will continue working at Mercedes, and has been replaced by Frederico Kochlowski.

The CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, which operates the automaker’s assembly plant in Vance, Alabama, has stepped from his role shortly before workers vote on whether to accept UAW representation.

Michael Goebel has been CEO at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International since 2019 but, on Tuesday, the company announced that he would be replaced by Frederico Kochlowski the following day. Although executives changing roles at the automaker is not unusual, the timing of the shuffle is noteworthy.

More: UAW Files Charges Against Mercedes For Alleged Anti-Union Campaign

Workers at the plant will vote on whether to join the UAW between May 13 and 17, and recently accused Goebel of anti-union activity. The CEO was accused of attempting to “chill union activity” and of holding a mandatory plant-wide meeting where he expressed that he did not believe the UAW could help the company and that workers shouldn’t have to pay union dues.

The move could be a peace offering aimed at resetting relations between workers and management, Art Wheaton, a labor expert, told Autonews. “It’s a way to pacify workers, but it’s unlikely to stop the vote from taking place,” Wheaton added.

 Mercedes Changes Leadership At Alabama Plant After Union-Busting Claims

In fact, the UAW’s complaints extended beyond Goebel. The organization claimed workers have been intimidated, threatened, and fired by Mercedes, among them one pro union worker with stage 4 cancer who was terminated over a “zero-tolerance policy on cellphones,” which he had previously received permission to use in order to receive information about a “scarce chemo drug.”

Although it is still unclear if Mercedes workers will join the UAW, the union said it would only call a vote once it had received 70 percent support. The referendum comes at a time when pro-union sentiment is strong, and just weeks after employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, made the historic decision to approve UAW representation.

Since ceding his role as the head of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Goebel is now listed as Mercedes’ “Head of Operations North America” on LinkedIn. His replacement, Kochlowski, formerly served as the head of COMPAS, the Mercedes-Nissan joint venture manufacturing operation located in Mexico.

 Mercedes Changes Leadership At Alabama Plant After Union-Busting Claims

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