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Biden Administration Asks Germany to Investigate Mercedes at UAW’s Request

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Authors: Gregory Hoff

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The Biden Administration’s “all of government” approach to labor issues reached a new frontier as White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan reportedly pressed the German government to investigate alleged Mercedes unfair labor practices at a plant in Alabama, weeks after the plant voted against unionization.  

UAW appeal of failed union vote: The UAW appealed its resounding failure to unionize workers at a Mercedes plant in Alabama and levied several unfair labor practice charges against Mercedes, with the goal of achieving a bargaining order from the NLRB against the company under the new Cemex framework. Cemex allows the Board to order employers to recognize and bargain with unions even if they already lost an election so long as the union had majority support amongst employees at one time and the employer is found to have committed unfair labor practices during the campaign.   

International plea: Apparently unsatisfied with – or lacking confidence in – the matter being handled by the NLRB, the UAW asked the Biden Administration to take the unprecedented step of engaging with the German government to put additional legal pressure on Mercedes. National security advisor Jake Sullivan called upon German officials to conduct their own investigation of the alleged unfair labor practices at the Alabama plant, reportedly at the personal request of UAW Shawn Fain.  

The German government has been investigating Mercedes for over a month – before the union election even took place. The investigation is looking into alleged unfair labor practices and potential violations of Germany’s new law on global supply chain practices.  

Pressure from all sides: Both during and after the union election campaign, the Biden Administration has sought to bring the weight of the American executive branch, and now the German government to bear on Mercedes – all in an effort to push UAW across the finish line at the Alabama plant. Seeking government investigations is a frequent union “corporate campaign” tactic. 

These actions not only speak to the lengths to which the current administration will go to tip the scales in favor of organized labor, but also to the clear, direct line of access that unions have to the White House.  

What’s next? Mercedes now faces investigations by the NLRB and by its own home government, with the ultimate goal of installing the UAW at the Alabama plant despite its election loss – either through an NLRB bargaining order or public pressure.

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