Some 5,000 people marched in Mississippi in March this year, in support of workers wanting to unionize at Nissan's plant in Canton. Photo: UAW

UAW loses Nissan vote in face of threats and intimidation

07.08.2017

After an intense anti-union campaign of threats, intimidation and misinformation, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the UAW has lost an election to form a union at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, USA, by a 2,244 votes to 1,307.

“The courageous workers of Nissan, who fought tirelessly for union representation alongside community and civil-rights leaders, should be proud of their efforts to be represented by the UAW,” said Dennis Williams, president of the UAW. “The result of the election was a setback for these workers, the UAW and working Americans everywhere, but in no way should it be considered a defeat.” 

As soon as the two-day election was announced for 3 and 4 August, Nissan stepped up its anti-union tactics at the Canton plant. Supervisors pressured employees with anti-union messages in group and one-on-one meetings. The company broadcast anti-union videos inside the plant instructing workers to “Vote No” and launched a sizeable anti-union TV advertising campaign.

“We’re disappointed but not surprised by the outcome in Canton,” said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the international union’s transnational department. “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.”

UAW has been fighting for 14 years for employee representation at the plant.

In the latest complaint filed to the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) just before voting closed on 4 August, the union alleges additional violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including widespread surveillance of worker union activity, threats that benefits would be taken away if the Nissan Canton workforce votes for UAW representation, and threatening a worker with termination if she became a representative for Nissan workers.

Workers say that Nissan even threatened to take away leased vehicles, while it awarded long-desired raises and special deals on car purchases in return for voting no. Meanwhile, anti union videos played on constant loop in break rooms.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders, said: “This could go down as one of the most vicious, and illegal, anti-union crusades in decades. Workers should never have to endure this type of threatening campaign or walk through a minefield just to vote for a union.”

The UAW’s campaign for recognition at Canton received support from civil rights organizations, community and religious groups, as well as Hollywood celebrities. In March this year, more than 5,000 people joined a rally in support of the workers at Canton.

IndustriALL affiliates from France, Brazil and Japan have shown continued solidarity for UAW’s efforts to unionize Nissan’s plant at Canton, and some were present to monitor the election. Japanese affiliate JAW wrote to the new CEO of Nissan, Hiroto Saikawa, calling for neutrality during the election process.

Canton is one of only three Nissan facilities in the world that are not unionized. The other two are in Tennessee, also in the US south. Even in Mexico, where independent unions struggle for recognition, the union at Nissan has one of the best collective agreements in the country. 

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

“We congratulate the thirteen hundred workers at Canton who voted yes to a union in the face of extreme pressure and intimidation. They were brave enough to stand up for what they believe in and showed that no matter what the company threw at them, they were prepared to hold their ground. IndustriALL and its affiliates around the world stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Nissan workers at Canton.”