April 5, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

Richard Trumka informing passerby at Javits Center of Nissan's mistreatment of American workers
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President

New York, NY—For over a year about 3,000 workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, have been trying to organize a union. The United Auto Workers has previously tried to organize foreign automakers’ U.S. plants, especially in the South. (Watch Video)

Standing outside the Javits Center distributing information to passerby attending the NY Auto Show, Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO’s President, said Nissan workers in Mississippi would have a union.

“Nissan is doing all the things an anti-union employer would do—threatening workers and using union-busting tactics. But it’s not going to be successful because the workers in Mississippi really are going to have a union. We have overwhelming support at the plant and ultimately they’ll be union,” said Trumka. 

Bob King, president of the UAW, joined Trumka with New York labor leaders at the Javits Center. King said it’d be a significant symbolic victory should workers in Canton and at another Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee vote UAW.

“Not only will workers have a voice, but Nissan’s Mississippi plants will have higher quality, better productivity and better attendance,” King said.

He pointed to the relationship the UAW has forged with Ford, GM and Chrysler as one built on mutual success.

“We want companies to succeed because it’s in the best long-term interests of our membership. Nissan will be a better company, and have better plants in the U.S. when workers have full representation.”

They both noted that the company is acting badly by threatening to shut down the Canton plant should workers organize a union. They blame the American management for being a rogue management because Nissan employs unionized workforces in Japan and Brazil.

Also the company is pitting its workforce against each other inside and between plants. Apparently the company is paying $2 an hour less to the primarily African-American workforce in Canton for doing the same work as their primarily white counterparts do in Smyrna, Tennessee. 

David Hill, a UAW Local 1981 member, noted that Nissan uses Yates Construction as a temp agency to hire workers at a lower wage ($8 or $9 an hour) and without full benefits that older workers enjoy. While the workers at Smyrna rejected UAW representation in 1989, Hill noted that the workers are now more open to unionization because they have a lot of anxiety over Nissan relying too heavily on temp workers. 

Hill said that the UAW is not pursuing a NLRB-directed election essentially because the company would control the election’s direction, thereby determining the election’s outcome in the company’s favor.

Instead the UAW has proposed an election whereby both sides would have equal time and access to the workers to make their case. Nissan refused the UAW’s offer, but the union, along with The Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, an eclectic organization comprised of clergy, students, concerned citizens and activists, has been pressuring the company to allow the workers to “vote in a free, fair and democratic election.”


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