In the face of anti-union management, workers at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, have fought for more than ten years for the right to organize. This week, workers filed for a union election, with the assistance from United Autoworkers.
Nissan’s Canton plant is one of only three Nissan facilities in the world, including two in Tennessee, where workers are not represented by a union. This week, employees announced plans to seek a representation election on 31 July – 1 August for blue-collar employees.
“Nissan employees want fair wages for all workers, better benefits, and an end to unreasonable production quotas and unsafe conditions in Mississippi,” said Nina Dumas, a Nissan technician who has worked in the plant for five years. “The company doesn’t respect our rights. It’s time for a union in Canton.”
The Canton plant shows a grim pattern of labour abuses, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an agency of the U.S. government, has charged Nissan with:
- Threatening, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their right to organize a union
- Threatening to close the plant if workers unionize
- Threatened to falsify employee records to retaliate against workers
- Unlawfully instituted a company uniform policy that effectively banned workers from wearing pro-union t-shirts
“When we speak out to demand basic protections, Nissan threatens and harasses us,” said McRay Johnson, a technician in the Canton plant who also has been there for five years. “Employees need and deserve representation in the workplace.”
In addition to the NLRB’s complaint, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued multiple citations against Nissan for violations of federal safety and health laws in Canton. The most recent citations, issued in February 2017, found the company
did not furnish employment and a place of employment which was free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
“Every day, we literally are risking our lives at Nissan,” said Rosiland Essex, a technician who has worked at Nissan for 14 years. “We deserve better.”
Management at the Canton plant have already expressed that they are not supporting the workers’ decision to seek representation.
IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Valter Sanches said:
“It is an outrage that the workers are being denied the fundamental right to join a union. IndustriALL will continue to support the workers’ fight and we call on Nissan to facilitate the vote.”
Nissan employees’ move to form a union comes four months after the historic “March on Mississippi,” when an estimated 5,000 workers and civil-right activists converged on the Canton plant to demand that the company respect workers’ rights. Organized by the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN) — a coalition of civil-rights leaders, ministers and worker advocates — the march featured U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, former NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, actor Danny Glover and others.