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Strike at Mercedes-Benz Supplier Sets Fire in Alabama, Big Three in Detroit Battle On

The United Automobile Workers union began a strike against a Mercedes-Benz supplier in Alabama on Tuesday morning, in the latest act of labor unrest as several auto makers fight to keep their production lines running.

The walkout at Caracal USA in Vance, Alabama started a little before 6 am and has impacted the car manufacturer’s global supply chain. It follows a series of similar actions over the past several weeks, most notably the UAW’s ongoing strike against the Detroit “Big Three” automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Mercedes-Benz, an affiliate of German car giant Daimler, is one of the largest automakers in the world. It suffered losses of €1.4 billion in 2019, though it bounced back strongly later in the year as its sales increased by nearly 8%.

Caracal, which is owned by German parts supplier Brose Fahrzeugteile GmbH & Co., is a key contributor to Mercedes-Benz’s global supply chain, and supplies a variety of parts for Mercedes-Benz and other automakers. This includes dashboards, front and rear end panels, and seat frames, which the company produces in its Alabama facility.

The union, which represents 11,200 workers at various U.S. auto plants, has accused Caracal of violating the union’s labor contracts at its other facilities. Specifically, the UAW alleges that Caracal did not fully implement the union’s standard wage and benefit package when it opened the Alabama plant.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes voiced the union’s motives for the walkout, saying, “The men and women of this facility are standing up to fight for a fair and just contract to be implemented at their plant, so they can have a say in the future of their employment.”

It’s unclear how long the strike will last, but it could be weeks or even months before a resolution is reached. Mercedes-Benz remains optimistic and says it’s doing everything it can to minimize disruption, but the effects of the strike are already being felt across its entire global supply chain.

Meanwhile, the Detroit “Big Three” strike enters its seventh week as workers demand higher wages and more job security. Over 50,000 UAW members have gone without pay, and the union says it will only end the strike after significant gains are made.

The strike at Caracal is another reminder of the power of organized labor and its capacity to bring change. As the UAW strike and now this walkout continue, it’s important to keep in mind the impact it has had and will continue to have on the automotive industry.

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