German auto union leader: American South comparable to N. Korea - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

German auto union leader: American South comparable to N. Korea

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

There are some strong words coming from the head of Germany's biggest automotive labor union and they have to do with states like Alabama that don't require union membership to work in the car manufacturing and similar industries.

The comments came in response to recent reports about Volkswagen's efforts to try to avoid unions as it builds a new plant in Tennessee.

The new union leader, named Detlef Wetzel, even called out an Alabama company.

Alabama's automotive industry is the fifth largest in the country and companies like Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and Mercedes Benz have all expanded here in recent years.

Those companies have described the business environment as their main reasons for working in Alabama, code for not having to work with the United Auto Workers union, the most influential automotive union in the country.

Talking about Volkswagen, the new head of IG Metall said, "Low wages and union-free areas: that's not a business model that the IG Metall would support. If companies - from VW to Thyssenkrupp - entered these [Southern U.S.] states in order to be free of unions, meaning to not acknowledge a fundamental pillar of democracy, then we're in North Korea. That cannot be accepted."

UAW, the Detroit based labor group, has been working to unionize the workers at Mercedes Benz, located in Tuscaloosa, and Hyundai, located in Montgomery, but so far their efforts have been unsuccessful.

Asked for comment, Governor Robert Bentley's office said, "One of the major factors that helps us recruit jobs is our commitment to free enterprise in Alabama. When companies respect team members and there is a close relationship between management and workers, there is no need to unionize."

Requests of the UAW for comment have gone unanswered.

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