Flush With Federal Money, Strings Attached, a Deep South Factory Votes to Unionize
Workers at a rural Georgia factory that builds electric school buses under generous federal subsidies voted to unionize on Friday, handing organized labor and Democrats a surprise victory in their hopes to turn huge new infusions of money from Washington into a union beachhead in the Deep South.
The company, Blue Bird in Fort Valley, Ga., may lack the cachet of Amazon or the ubiquity of Starbucks, two other corporations that have attracted union attention. But the 697-to-435 vote by Blue Bird’s workers to join the United Steelworkers was the first significant organizing election at a factory receiving major federal funding under legislation signed by President Biden.
“This is just a bellwether for the future, particularly in the South, where working people have been ignored,” Liz Shuler, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said Friday evening after the vote. “We are now in a place where we have the investments coming in and a strategy for lifting up wages and protections for a good high-road future.”
The three bills making up that investment include a $1 trillion…