The IBEW welcomed hundreds of members into the Brotherhood Sept. 27 when the workers at Electrolux’s Memphis, Tenn., plant voted by more than 2 to 1 to form a union.

“This is the most important manufacturing victory in a southern, right-to-work state in my memory,” said Director of Professional and Industrial Organizing Carmella Thomas.

More than 90 percent of the 700-member bargaining unit voted in the election and more than 70 percent of them voted to join Memphis Local 474 and speak as one in negotiations with the Swedish appliance giant.

The southwest Memphis plant makes high-end stoves and ovens and was one of the highest profile economic development projects in the city when it opened two years ago.

IBEW organizers and members of the volunteer organizing committee stand outside the gates of the Memphis Electrolux plant in the days before the successful organizing vote brought in nearly 700 new members.

The organizing campaign involved dozens of volunteers from inside the plant as well as organizers from Los Angeles, Kansas City and Houston. In the weeks leading up to the vote, organizers made more than 400 house calls and ran a sophisticated social media campaign aimed at educating workers about the benefits of uniting together.

The successful organizing drive came just over a year after pro-union Electrolux workers lost by 59 votes. The IBEW filed multiple unfair labor practice claims against Electrolux and the company was penalized multiple times for violating labor laws, Thomas said.

The unfair labor practice convictions got the attention of IF Metall, the union that represents Electrolux workers in Sweden. The leadership of IF Metall demanded the company honor the global neutrality agreement it had signed with the union and cease interfering with the organizing drive. The leadership also recorded a video supporting the organizing drive that was distributed by the IBEW before the vote.

“It is awe inspiring,” Thomas said. “This is a win for our new brothers and sisters, it is win for working families in the South and it is a model of how the labor movement can confront globalized companies with a global labor movement.”