July 28, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Judge: Mercedes-Benz violated organizing rights in Alabama

The Wall Street Journal reported UAW plans to form a local union in Vance, Alabama. UAW has declined to confirm the plan. (Tamika Moore / AP)

Washington —An administrative judge said Mercedes-Benz USA violated the rights of workers at its Vance, Ala., plant who were seeking to convince other employees to form a union during off-time, but ruled in the company’s favor in other points of contention and imposed no fines.

In a case brought by a worker and United Auto Workers union in 2013 before the National Labor Relations Board, Judge Keltner W. Locke found in a 27-page order that the subsidiary of German automaker Daimler AG violated the National Labor Relations Act by “maintaining an overly broad solicitation and distribution rule which employees reasonably would understand to prohibit solicitation, in work areas, by employees not on working time of other employees not on working time.”

The ruling issued Thursday found Mercedes managers violated the law by “prohibiting an employee not on working time from distributing union literature” in a plant team center “which are mixed-use areas,” “and by barring employees not on working time from distributing union literature in the plant atrium.”

The judge dismissed other allegations made in the complaint, finding in Mercedes’ favor and didn’t impose any fines, saying Mercedes-Benz “took prompt remedial action.”

The company noted the decision also found in its favor on other allegations.

The judge’s ruling largely validates our position that we never violated any team member’s rights. We are especially pleased that the judge found no credible evidence of threats or harassment. The judge also stated that (Mercedes-Benz USA) truly sought to be neutral at all times and not to interfere with team members. There are aspects of the ruling that we don’t agree with and we are evaluating next steps. In the meantime, we will continue to focus on building world-class vehicles and growing the positive team culture that has produced over 20 years of success,” the company said in a statement.

The UAW declined to comment on the ruling.

The order says Mercedes-Benz must issue a new work rule allowing solicitation of employees and distribution of materials. The company must tell the NLRB within three weeks what steps have been taken to comply.

Earlier this month, the UAW said it would form a local union to represent workers at German automaker Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, ending a bid to win a new organizing election to form a German style works council. The Wall Street Journal reported that the UAW plans to form a similar local to represent Mercedes workers in Vance, but the UAW has declined to confirm the plan.

In January, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche announced the automaker would build its 2015 C-Class in Alabama, adding 1,000 jobs, and the first car to be built at the plant. The company plans to hold an event to mark the launch in September. The company has invested $2 billion in the plant since 2009.