Union’s complaints about Nissan’s Mississippi plant filed in three countries

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An Altima sedan is assembled by technicians at the Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant on April 6, 2016.

After years of working to unionize workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, the United Auto Workers is shifting its strategy and going international with its concerns about conditions at Nissan’s Mississippi plant.

On Dec. 20, the Detroit-based union announced cases in three countries against French automaker Renault, which has a strategic partnership with Nissan, as well as against Nissan and the joint corporation. The complaints were filed in The Netherlands, Japan and France with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international nongovernmental organization whose members share information about economic development and trade. Its member organizations, which includes the United States, represent 63 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

The union wants the OECD to support its efforts in putting “an end to the systematic, prolonged and serious violations of labor rights that have been taking place at Nissan North America Inc.’s plant in Canton, Mississippi,” the UAW said in a European press release.

“The Renault-Nissan Alliance’s repeated failures to address the serious workers’ rights and civil rights violations in Mississippi are deeply troubling to the UAW and the workers’ allies, in the U.S. and around the world,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer and Transnational Department Director Gary Casteel in a press release.

The move marks a shift in strategy for the UAW. A 2013 report from the auto union outlines its grievances, which include the large number of workers hired through lower paying temporary-employment firms instead of directly by Nissan. They say temporary workers earn on average $12 per hour with few opportunities for wage increases compared to top-level Nissan direct workers, who earn more than $23 an hour.

They also allege that management at the Canton facility is not responsive to complaints about safety and health concerns at the plant.

“Run the line, run the line, run the line,” is management’s mantra, said Morris Mock, a paint technician at the Canton plant and a direct Nissan employee.

Mock, who is frequently quoted in the media criticizing working conditions at the plant, said workers frequently suffer lacerations but are afraid to report the injuries to the facility’s in-house medical department.

“We want them to fix the things that are broken and in a timely manner,” Mock said, referring to workers’ concerns about safety and ergonomics.

In February 2015, Nissan rejected an offer from the U.S. State Department to mediate the ongoing dispute with the UAW, explaining to Reuters at the time that “long-established guidelines for bringing a union vote already exist.”

In its most recent complaint, the union wants the OECD to determine whether Renault, Nissan and the companies’ joint partnership, Renault-Nissan, violated OECD guidelines about procedures for resolving disputes between corporations, trade unions and individuals.

Nissan, responding through a corporate statement to Mississippi Today, said the decision to join a union is up to individual employees.

We support employees’ right to choose who represents them,” Nissan’s statement said. “Nissan employees enjoy secure jobs, strong benefits, a working environment that exceeds industry standards, and an open dialogue based on transparency and mutual respect.”

  • LB

    Workers unhappy with conditions at Nissan are absolutely free to seek employment elsewhere.
    Nissan Canton provides some of the best low-skill/no-skill jobs in the Jackson Metro area, and Mississippi, for better or worse, is full of low-skill/no-skill workers. A labor union will eventually price Nissan out of Mississippi.

    • Lainy

      LB you must love the race to the bottom! Without workers this company and all others would have to close their doors. The health and safety of workers must be the first concern for companies, if not we don’t need them. Maiming, killing and starving workers for massive profits is barbaric and out of style!

      • LB

        So Nissan is maiming, killing and starving workers?
        OSHA exists independent of labor unions. Legal protections and regulations are already in place.

        • Jackie Allen

          You are so naïve.

    • William Alexander Carter

      no, how about Nissan observe proper safety protocols. When workers get lacerations and are afraid to report to the medical department, there is a goddamn problem.

      and if you think it takes no skill to work on an assembly line or in a factory in general, you must never have worked in one

      • LB

        Most factory jobs, by definition, fall into the “unskilled labor” category. In short, you don’t need specialized training to perform most tasks. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, but it does mean workers are very replaceable.
        And as far as workers getting lacerations – show me the evidence. We have reports from one man who is clearly a UAW labor organizer with an agenda.

        • Jimmybazball

          You are no more than a company ‘tool’ go tell your boss what a tool you are and he’ll no respect for you either because he knows given the chance you’ll stab him in the back too….

    • Jimmybazball

      Go then they should get priced out… Send them back to Japan and built the cars there and ship them back fool suckers to by.. We are not Japans slave labor.. We won the war.. Go.. Leave..