The roughly 5,000 people who work at the Mercedes Benz U.S. International plant in Tuscaloosa County will vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers union during a weeklong period next month.

The UAW, emboldened by a series of victories for workers after strikes at the "Big Three" in Detroit last year, has been prioritizing recruitment in the South.

Enough workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have also expressed interest in unionizing that they are having their own vote on joining the union this very week - it is scheduled to end this Friday.

Meanwhile, the UAW said they are also conducting interest campaigns at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama and at Toyota in Troy, Missouri.

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Now the UAW and the National Labor Relations Board have set the dates for the vote at the Mercedes plant here in Tuscaloosa - less than a month from now, on May 13th - 17th.

“Workers at our plant are ready for this moment,” said MBUSI worker Jeremy Kimbrell in a press release. “We are ready to vote yes because we are ready to win our fair share. We are going to end the Alabama discount and replace it with what our state actually needs. Workers sticking together and sticking by our community.”

"The time is now," said worker Latesha Henry. "It’s time to regain family work-life balance and make history at Mercedes. I want this to be a job that generation after generation would be proud to have."

Between the Volkswagen plant and MBUSI, the UAW stands to gain around 10,000 autoworkers in their ranks - depending on how workers vote this week in Tennessee and next month in Tuscaloosa.

“We’re tired of Mercedes executives rolling things back,” worker Billy Guyton said in the release. “We’re going to roll our union forward.”

Meanwhile, conservative leaders across the state have been generally opposed to the effort, praising Alabama's "right to work" policies and the decades of productive partnership the state has enjoyed with automakers - especially Mercedes.

Alabama's Kay Ivey and other Southern governors joined voices to warn against the UAW this week, and Senator Gerald Allen submitted an op-ed to the Thread Wednesday asking workers to consider the risks of unionizing before they vote.

For more on the situation at the plant as it continues to develop, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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