By Evan Henerson
Later this week, workers at the Nissan assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi are scheduled to vote whether to unionize with United Auto Workers (UAW). The decision, which could cover more than 4,000 workers, has garnered national attention including the support of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who attended a rally in March.
Nissan, predictably, is fighting like hell to try to beat down the campaign. Between TV ads, threatening and bribing workers to vote no and requiring workers to attend anti-union group meetings (called “roundtable talks”), the company is waging what some are calling one of the “nastiest anti-union campaigns in the modern history of the American Labor movement.” Governor Phil Bryant has weighed in against unionization, saying, “If you want to take away your job, if you want to end manufacturing as we know it in Mississippi, just start expanding unions.”
"I don't think we need a union to come in there and tell us how to make a better automobile," the Associated Press reports Bryant saying during a recent appearance at the Neshoba County Fair. "They can get back on the Bernie Sanders bus and go back to New York, and I'll pay their way.”
The Huffington Post reports that the stakes are plenty high.
“If the United Auto Workers manage to win a majority at the Canton facility, it will give the Detroit-based union a few thousand new members and a strong toehold in the Southern auto industry,” The HuffPost’s David Jamieson writes. “Many manufacturers have drifted to the region in recent years to take advantage of the lower wages and union-free workforces. The area has generally been difficult territory for labor organizing. In Mississippi, just 6.6 percent of workers belong to a labor union, compared with 10.7 percent nationally.”
How bad are things getting? Well, The National Labor Relations Board has filed complaints against Nissan over the company’s tactics.
Here’s a sampling from an article in The Guardian:
“The NLRB alleged that Nissan had violated the law in these anti-union sessions by warning that workers would lose wages and benefits if they supported the union.
The NLRB also found that a supervisor at the plant told workers that if they spoke out against the union, he would personally ensure that they received increased wages and benefits.
In 2015, the watchdog charged Nissan and its temporary employee agency provider, Kelly Services, with violating workers’ rights. This April, the NLRB charged Nissan and Kelly Services with threatening to close the plant if workers unionized. The NLRB also charged the company with breaking labor law by having security personnel perform unnecessary security stops on union members.”