Monday, August 07, 2017

Mississippi Nissan workers reject UAW; union files charges alleging company intimidated workers

Nissan worker Tony Jacobson wore an
anti-union shirt. (Reuters, Nick Carey)
Workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., voted nearly two to one against unionization on Aug. 4. This could leave the United Auto Workers in a weakened bargaining position in contract negotiations with Detroit's Big 3 (General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler) in 2019. "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," Nick Carey reports for Reuters. The UAW also failed to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2014, though the vote was much closer.

Jeff Amy of The Associated Press reports that the union spent close to 10 years laying the groundwork for unionization at the Canton plant, northwest of Jackson, reaching out to the majority African-American workers with the argument that workers' rights are civil rights. Union supporters say the Nissan plant has a poor safety record and switched from a pension plan to a 401(k) retirement plan. "They pointed to reduced retirement and health benefits for longtime workers, and lower pay scales for 1,500 Nissan workers who began as contract laborers in recent years. White and other union supporters said after the vote they felt those newer employees, in particular, had been intimidated," Amy reports.

The UAW made the typical claim that Nissan illegally threatened workers that their jobs would be lost or their plant would be closed if they voted for unionization. The union said it will ask the National Labor Relations Board to take Nissan to trial for unfair labor practices, and filed new charges with the NLRB while the polls were open alleging that Nissan "conducted repeated captive audience meetings" and played "virtually non-stop anti-union videos" ahead of the vote. If the labor board agrees that Nissan acted unlawfully, it could order a new election. Amy reports that the UAW may file more charges with the NLRB because of claims that "Nissan provided a faulty contact list to the union, it caused a contract worker to be fired because of his union support, and a manager told workers July 28 that they would lose benefits it they voted for a union."

Nissan spokeswoman Parul Bajaj said in a statement that Nissan has lived up to its obligations, and that "the UAW is again launching baseless and unsubstantiated allegations against Nissan Canton in a desperate, last-minute attempt to undermine the integrity of the secret ballot voting process."

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