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Global support for UAW organizing in the South

11 October, 2014Massive international solidarity feeds in to the organizing drive of the UAW at Nissan in Canton, Mississippi. The six-country trade union delegation representing over 150,000 Nissan workers jointly demanded that Nissan allows the 4,000 workers in Canton to form a union local of UAW.

Under the banner that “Union Rights are Civil Rights”, the UAW has been campaigning for four years to establish a company-recognized trade union into the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. The 50-year anniversaries of key moments in the civil rights movement are being marked and mirrored in the current campaign.

While Nissan employees in Japan, Spain, UK, South Africa, and Brazil have constructive industrial relations with the carmaker, union supporters in Canton face extreme intimidation and threats from management all the time. Also in the delegation were unions from Nissan’s corporate partner Renault, with whom IndustriALL has a global framework agreement.

Leading the international solidarity mission, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina stated:

We are Pro-Nissan, Pro-Union. Workers here in Canton, Mississippi have many complaints about health and safety, bullying, shift scheduling, and increasing precarious workers. Much of these issues would be worked through if there were a union mechanism in the plant. Our message to Nissan is that we will not go away until they afford the Canton workers the right to form a union.

In a large union meeting the local activists explained the ways in which management threatens workers against joining the union. But more importantly they energetically expressed their urgent readiness to organize the plant.

Nissan in Canton is one of three major organizing campaigns of the UAW in the Southern US. The other two are moving forward with UAW Local 42 very close to recognition from Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and brand new Local 112 forming last Friday at Daimler in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

An IndustriALL solidarity road trip led by the general secretary visited the inspiring members, leaders and organizers of Locals 42 and 112 this week. These important campaigns will set the standard for organizing the other non-American auto companies operating in the southern states.

International solidarity has been central to the organizing of VW and Daimler. German union IG Metall flexed its muscle to ensure neutrality from both companies and a pathway to establishing UAW union locals. The Japanese JAW and JCM are working with UAW to win similar assurances from Nissan.

Autoworkers in the southern US deserve the right to form a union, just as workers around the world do in these same multinational companies.