As most Alabamians know, our state’s economic driver in the 20th century was the steel industry. It gave birth to the “Magic City” moniker Birmingham proudly embraces today.

Now, in the 21st century, Alabama’s powerhouse is our growing automotive industry.

Consisting of five manufacturing plants across our state, Alabamians produce 1.3 million vehicles per year, the third highest total in the nation. Just like the “magic” of the steel industry growing the Birmingham area in the past, this level of production has made vehicles our number one export, totaling $14.8 billion, making Alabama a leader in the auto industry. This industry alone drove Alabama's overall exports to $27.4 billion in 2023.

While the economic numbers show the vital key the auto industry holds to our state’s future, the jobs created have an immediate impact in our communities.

Nearly 50,000 people work directly for the Alabama automotive industry with countless others benefiting from the economic activity derived from these quality, high paying, high benefit jobs. It is safe to say the beating heart of our state is the engine of a made-in-Alabama car.

Unfortunately, national special interest groups are again seeking to destroy a vibrant economic ecosystem. The United Auto Workers Union (UAW) is attempting to unionize our auto manufacturing plants. This will suffocate growth in this invaluable sector and, most dangerously, create instability for our communities by jeopardizing the jobs of our autoworkers.

Many who are enjoying the good times of economic success in our state will question why this push for unionization would be counterproductive. They need to look no further than to two formerly great American cities now hollowed out by economic blight foisted upon them by unionization. Cleveland, Ohio has seen its industry ravished by layoffs and plant closures. Detroit, Mich., while having the name “Motor City” in the past, is now a shell of its former self after losing nearly 130,000 auto industry jobs over a 20-year period. Those jobs left those communities to find greener pastures in states that are open to business.

We don’t want our communities to see this devastation befall them. Too much is at stake at a time when our nation is gripped by rising costs from the gasoline we put in our trucks to eggs we buy at the grocery store.

Just like the workers who denied forced unionization at the thriving Bessemer Amazon plant in 2022, the rejection of out-of-state meddlers may be needed for our auto industry to continue its success.

We have seen success since 1993 when Mercedes-Benz first set up shop in Vance. We also understand from looking at other communities that success is not a guarantee. Instead, it is something we must earn and build upon day by day – and Alabama’s auto industry is proof. 

What we have in Alabama is a testament to the fact that you can have both successful companies and thriving employees.

I reject any notion that the UAW’s presence in the Alabama auto industry will have a positive impact on workers or our economic future. It is up to us to keep the industrial magic of our state alive by keeping Alabama strong. We must keep Alabama open for business.

Congressman Gary Palmer represents the Sixth District of Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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