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Are Unions Bad for Alabama?
The United Auto Workers is trying to unionize Alabama's Mercedes-Benz plant.. but some in state government don't like that idea.
It's an issue that Montgomery's Hyundai plant has also faced.. even though overall, only about 10% of Alabama workers are in a union.
Governor Robert Bentley spoke at the Economic Development Association of Alabama with some harsh words for those trying to organize a union at the Mercedes Benz plant just outside of Tuscaloosa.
"I talked to the people in charge at the plant up there and I said look, y'all are not going to be my star. I can't brag on you if you unionize," said Governor Bentley.
Montgomery's Hyundai plant faced a push to unionize about three years ago, but workers decided against the idea. The company doesn't like the idea of having a middleman between management and the employees.
"We believe a direct two way communication between ourselves and team members is the best way to be able to have successful operation. In fact we've been here almost 8 years and that's been very successful for us. It's created a very strong environment of dignity and respect with our team members," said Robert Burns, spokesperson for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama.
But one union leader I spoke with thinks that unions are an important part of defending the state's work force.
"We get a bad rap, but basically what union people strive for are better working conditions with a decent living wage, some health insurance and a pension so they can retire comfortably," said J.D. Hornsby, Business Manager at the local Electrical Workers Union.
Governor Bentley says some international businesses don't even want to come to states where unions have a big presence. Burns says that's part of the reason Alabama has had so much success with Hyundai and other businesses.
"The whole idea about the automotive industry in Alabama being a cornerstone of maybe economic development growth for this area is certainly true. It's something you can point to and say this state is business friendly and ready to welcome other businesses to the state," said Burns.
Alabama is a right to work state which gives employees the right to choose whether or not to join a union.