Nissan workers say no to union; UAW says threats tilted outcome

Print More

In this Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, photo, UAW members use their signs to block Nissan company signs at one of the entrances to the vehicle assembly plant in Canton, Miss. In voting that begins early Thursday, Aug. 3, some 3,700 direct employees at the Nissan plant will decide whether they want a union. The polls close at 7 p.m., local time on Friday. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

With more than 3,500 employees casting ballots, Nissan workers in Mississippi said no thanks to union representation by the UAW.

The final tally was 2,244 to 1,307.

“With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard. They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company,” Parul Bajaj, a Nissan spokeswoman said in a media statement.

She added: “Our expectation is that the UAW will respect and abide by their decision and cease their efforts to divide our Nissan family. Now that the election is complete, Nissan will focus on bringing all employees back together as one team, building great vehicles and writing our next chapter in Mississippi.”

However, it seems unlikely that the UAW will be leaving town any time soon.

Before polls closed at 7 p.m., the union announced a new round of unfair labor complaints against the Japanese automaker, arguing that Nissan’s threats and intimidation against workers tilted the scales in the company’s favor.

“We’re disappointed but not surprised by the outcome in Canton,” said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW. “Despite claiming for years to be neutral on the question of a union, Nissan waged one of the most illegal and unethical anti-union campaigns that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

The UAW said in the days leading up to the election that Nissan had violated federal labor laws, which the union said was underscored by a National Labor Relations Board complaint made public on July 26 that alleges that a Nissan supervisor illegally threatened workers with lost wages and benefits and plant closure if the union comes in. The UAW cited a dozen examples of federal labor relations complaints against Nissan.

Nissan denied the allegations in that labor complaint as well as the UAW’s charges of intimidation broadly. The company said through out the election process that it had a right to rebut the union’s claims with through its own education materials.

Dennis Williams, president of the Michigan-based UAW, called the election results a setback for Nissan “workers, the UAW and working Americans everywhere.”

“American workers need champions more than ever. The workers of Nissan deserve to have the job security, safe working conditions and collective bargaining power that come only from belonging to a union. The UAW will continue to be on the frontlines of that fight for all workers,” Williams said through a statement.

Rogelio V. Solis, AP

In this April 6, 2016, photograph, a technician applies the logo stencil to the side of a Titan truck on the assembly line at the Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant in Canton, Miss.

In the weeks leading up to the election, if you watched television, drove through a residential neighborhood in the Jackson metro, logged onto an ad-supported smartphone app or surfed the web, you probably saw one of Nissan’s “Our Team Our future” spots or one of the UAW’s “Do Better Together.”

Both deployed their surrogates, armed with carefully honed talking points ahead of the election.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) hosted a gathering of union members Wednesday to show support for employees in their quest to form a union.

Alex Rozier, Mississippi Today

Brenda Scott of MASE/CWA speaking to union members ahead of vote at the Nissan Canton plant.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi Economic Council published a report on the benefits of the automotive industry to the state’s economy.

Professionally produced commercials notwithstanding, the campaign’s waning days have not been without the bare-knuckle rhetorical brawling of political races as what Nissan and the UAW both call education campaigns draw accusations of foul play play from the other side.

The UAW said it also wants a federal court order to prevent Nissan from engaging in future unfair labor practices.

  • Charles Pearce

    After licking its wounds again, the UAW needs a bold strategy to earn acceptance in Mississippi — something like having Bernie Sanders win the National Tobacco Spitting Contest.