UAW makes last-ditch effort to unionize in the emerging southern auto industry.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the UAW’s unionization efforts at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. Casting Nissan as the villain, failed presidential candidate and current socialist Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders is stepping up his pressure on Nissan and its workers at the Canton plant.
Nissan’s Canton plant employees are voting on whether or not to unionize on Thursday and Friday.
Workers at Nissan Motor Co.’s Mississippi assembly plant voted Thursday to decide whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.
The voting by 3,700 assembly and maintenance workers began before dawn inside the plant. The National Labor Relations Board will accept the secret ballots through 7 p.m. Friday.
On one side are workers who say they need a union to give them a voice in their workplace, to protect against arbitrary treatment, and to bargain for better benefits and pay.
Other Nissan employees reject the idea of a union speaking for them. They fear the UAW would be an economic albatross, burdening an employer who pays them well.
Sanders, who is making this Canton Nissan unionization bid his own special mission, rallied in Canton last spring.
He’s shifted his rhetoric since then. Instead of focusing on the “eyes of the country and the eyes of the world” being on his “brothers and sistahs” in Canton, he’s now focused on attacking Nissan as an oppressive, racist force.
Writing at the Guardian in an article entitled “Nissan dispute could go down as most vicious anti-union crusade in decades,” Sanders rails against the very company that has been a boon to this small Southern town.
A few months before the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr Martin Luther King Jr wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “We know from painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
This week, thousands of courageous workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, are doing just that. They are voting for the right to join a union, the right to make a living wage and the right to job security and pensions. And they are doing so by connecting workers’ rights with civil rights, as the plant’s workforce is over 80% African American.
But Nissan, like other large corporations, is doing everything it can to stop these workers from forming a union. In the lead up to the vote, Nissan management has been deluging employees with anti-union literature and is threatening to close the plant if a majority of its workers vote to establish a union.
Supervisors have called workers off assembly lines for one-on-one interrogations. Anti-union videos are being run on a constant loop in employee break rooms. Groups of workers have been called into “roundtable” meetings to hear management disparage the United Auto Workers (UAW). Nissan has been saturating local TV and radio with anti-union propaganda.
This could go down as one of the most vicious, and illegal, anti-union crusades in decades.
While Sanders is busy banging the socialist drum and tossing perceived racism into the waters as chum, the New York Times has gone all-in on the anyone-who-opposes-unionization-is-racist argument.
In their article, “Racially Charged Nissan Vote Is a Test for U.A.W. in the South,” they focus on the fact that the majority of the Canton Nissan plant employees are black. That, somehow, is a problem.
Caught among an administration that is frequently hostile to labor, a long-term decline in membership and a steady shift in jobs to the lightly unionized South, the United Automobile Workerslong ago settled on this Mississippi town as a key to rebuilding its ranks and energizing the entire labor movement.
But for more than 3,500 employees who will be voting Thursday and Friday on whether to unionize the sprawling Nissan plant here, the concern is more immediate: How much they can expect of their employer in a world of diminishing prospects for blue-collar workers — not just in pay and benefits, but also in status and respect.
. . . . And another issue looms awkwardly over the forthcoming vote: race. A large majority of the nearly 6,500 workers at the Nissan plant are African-American. One does not have to search hard for racial overtones.
. . . . The U.A.W., for its part, has taken pains to highlight the campaign’s racial dimension. In its news release announcing the impending vote, it quoted a worker who accused Nissan of violating African-Americans’ labor rights even while marketing cars to them.
The union has also forged close alliances with local black pastors and community leaders, whose mantra has been that the ability to form a union is a civil right.
As I noted last spring, the goal here is not to help anyone other than the UAW by establishing a foothold in the South.
The South has long rejected unions, including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union who tried and failed to unionize Boeing workers in South Carolina last month. But the UAW is undeterred, even dragging avowed socialist and failed presidential candidate for the 2016 Democratic nomination down from Vermont to try to convince Mississippians that he—and the UAW—knows what is in their best interests.
. . . . The drive to unionize workers in right to work states is rooted in the UAW’s staggering decline in membership in recent decades. If they can’t get a foothold in the South, they may well not survive.
We’ll find out soon enough of these efforts to cast Nissan as the racist villain depriving its workers of a “civil right” will pay off.
UPDATE: Canton, Mississippi’s Nissan plant workers voted heavily against unionization.
Workers at Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s (7201.T) plant in Canton, Mississippi, voted nearly two to one against union representation, the company and the United Auto Workers (UAW) said late on Friday.
The vote at the end of a bitterly contested campaign extended a decades-long record of failure by the union to organize a major automaker’s plant in the U.S. South.
The vote at the Canton plant could leave the UAW weakened ahead of contract negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers in 2019, when many analysts are predicting a cyclical slump for U.S. auto sales.
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