Glenn Spencer Glenn Spencer
Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


May 20, 2024


On May 17, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reported that the United Auto Workers (UAW) lost a crucial election at the Mercedes factory in Vance, Alabama.  The vote was 56% to 44% against the UAW.

The negative vote was a big loss for the UAW and must have come as a shock.  In fact, the union was so confident of the win that as of May 19, the UAW website still featured a page stating:  “Volkswagen Workers Are Making History.  Mercedes Workers Got Next.”  Apparently not.

There are two big lessons from this vote.  First, when an employer makes sure its workers have access to all the facts about unionizing, it makes a big difference.  Volkswagen agreed to neutrality, meaning they gave the UAW a free hand, and lost.  Mercedes made sure workers could get accurate information, and won.

Second, card check is a poor barometer of workers’ true sentiments about joining a union.  The UAW did not call for an election at Mercedes until 70% of workers had signed a card indicating they wanted one.  And yet, when the final tally came in, only 44% voted for the union.  This is why the National Labor Relations Act explicitly mentions secret ballot elections, and why the Supreme Court has found secret ballots superior to card check when it comes to determining workers’ true opinions. 

The fact is that workers sign cards for all sorts of reasons that may not be related to actually wanting a union.  Sometimes its to get a union organizer off their back, or because they feel pressured into doing so since card signings are done in public.  And despite the evidence from the Mercedes vote, the current NRLB still wants make card check the default option, as its dangerous Cemex precedent makes clear.

Where the UAW takes its campaign from here is open to question.  The union has reported getting 30% signatures at a couple of different locations.  But nowhere has it yet come close to the 70% it says it needs to actually petition the NLRB for a certification vote.  After its loss at Mercedes, it might want to push that tally a little higher first.

About the authors

Glenn Spencer

Glenn Spencer

Spencer oversees the Chamber’s work on immigration, retirement security, traditional labor relations, human trafficking, wage hour and worker safety issues, EEOC matters, and state labor and employment law.

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