The first of the non-union southern auto plant dominoes has fallen. Workers at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant has have voted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

The two-day vote by the more than 4,000 VW employees ended Friday. The final tally reveals 2,628 votes, or 73% of the ballots cast voted for the union with only 985 no votes in an election run by the National Labor Relations Board.

The election outcome bears significant implications for organized labor in Alabama as Tuscaloosa County's Mercedes workers have their own union election scheduled for May 13-17.

The VW employees vote is a historic breakthrough in the "right-to-work" anti-union south. Similar to past efforts at Mercedes, the UAW had failed at all previous attempts to unionize the Tennessee VW plant. However, after a successful strike against the Detroit "Big Three" auto plants last year brought major contract wins, the union has been reenergized. Under its new more aggressive leader Shawn Fain, UAW is pouring more than $40 million into its union organizing efforts across the south.

According to the UAW website, over 10,000 non-union autoworkers have signed union cards in recent months, with public campaigns launched at Mercedes here in Tuscaloosa County, Volkswagen in Chattanooga and Hyundai in Montgomery and Toyota in Troy, Mo. Union efforts are also being mounted in two dozen other plants.

The White House issued a statement from President Biden, who is courting the union vote, “Together, these union wins have helped raise wages and demonstrate once again that the middle-class built America and that unions are still building and expanding the middle class for all workers,”

The union movement has sparked resistance from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and the governors from the five other Republican southern states with non-union auto plants. Last week they issued a joint statement opposing unionization, stating that unions at the plants will end the south's economic progress and could force some foreign automakers to close their plants in the U.S.

The joint statement from the governors included a warning, “The reality is companies have choices when it comes to where to invest and bring jobs and opportunity. We have worked tirelessly on behalf of our constituents to bring good-paying jobs to our states. These jobs have become part of the fabric of the automotive manufacturing industry. Unionization would certainly put our states’ jobs in jeopardy – in fact, in this year already, all of the UAW automakers have announced layoffs."

A website created by an organization calling itself the Workplace Fairness Institute claims, "More than 18,000 United Auto Workers were impacted by announced layoffs since October 2023." The site also calls for any union votes to be by secret ballot rather than open so the UAW can target individuals opposed to the union.

The UAW website, however, reflects a happy reaction from VW employees who pushed for the union, “We saw the big contract that UAW workers won at the Big Three and that got everybody talking,” said Zachary Costello, a trainer in VW’s proficiency room. “You see the pay, the benefits, the rights UAW members have on the job, and you see how that would change your life. That’s why we voted overwhelmingly for the union. Once people see the difference a union makes, there’s no way to stop them.”

The Mercedes plant in Vance is the next domino standing and Mercedes employee Jeremy Kimbrell was quoted in a UAW press release as vowing, “Workers at our plant are ready for this moment,”