Union files for work­ers vote at Mis­sis­sippi Nis­san plant

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

The United Auto Work­ers filed pe­ti­tions Mon­day to force a union­iza­tion elec­tion at a Nis­san plant in Mis­sis­sippi af­ter a years­long cam­paign to build sup­port in a re­gion typ­i­cally un­wel­com­ing to or­ga­nized la­bor. The UAW de­clined com­ment but has sched­uled an event yes­ter­day at its of­fice near the plant in Can­ton, just north of Jack­son. San­dra Hightower of the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board con­firmed that the board re­ceived the UAW’s elec­tion pe­ti­tion in its New Or­leans of­fice.

The union has long strug­gled to or­ga­nize for­eign-owned auto plants across the South, work­ing for years to build sup­port for a vote among the 6,500 em­ploy­ees at the Mis­sis­sippi com­plex. Mon­day’s move sets the stage for a key show­down. The UAW and com­mu­nity al­lies also have pushed Nis­san to stay neu­tral in a vote, claim­ing the com­pany has in­tim­i­dated work­ers. The la­bor board has backed some of those claims in pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion. Nis­san Mo­tor Co spokes­woman Parul Ba­jaj re­it­er­ated the com­pany’s stance that work­ers get to choose whether they have a union but management op­poses the move. “While it is ul­ti­mately up to our em­ploy­ees who will rep­re­sent them, we do not be­lieve that UAW rep­re­sen­ta­tion is in the best in­ter­est of Nis­san Can­ton and its work­ers,” Ba­jaj said.

Celebrity sup­port

The pro-union cam­paign has sought to link sup­port for the union with civil rights for African-Amer­i­cans. Work­ers at Nis­san’s plant in Smyrna, Ten­nessee, re­jected the UAW in 1989 and 2001 votes, but no elec­tion has been held at the Mis­sis­sippi plant in Can­ton. The Mis­sis­sippi cam­paign has fea­tured sup­port from the NAACP and ac­tor Danny Glover, as well as a rally in March head­lined by US Sen Bernie San­ders, a Ver­mont in­de­pen­dent and for­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Hightower said the UAW asked to rep­re­sent all pro­duc­tion and main­te­nance work­ers at the Can­ton plant, a group that could in­clude con­tract work­ers em­ployed by two other com­pa­nies. She said the la­bor board would seek to sched­ule an elec­tion “as soon as pos­si­ble.” How­ever, she noted that pend­ing un­fair la­bor prac­tice com­plaints filed by the UAW could block the vote. The UAW filed a new round of charges June 26.

Thirty per­cent of work­ers must sign pe­ti­tions seek­ing an elec­tion. Hightower could not im­me­di­ately say how many work­ers have signed. “We have a pile of pa­per,” she said. Bishop Thomas Jenk­ins of New Di­men­sions Church in Jack­son recorded a video and spoke at a Sun­day work­ers meet­ing at the UAW of­fice. He said he has long ad­vo­cated for bet­ter wages and work­ing con­di­tions in Mis­sis­sippi. “We’ve been talk­ing about this for a long time,” Jenk­ins told the AP in a phone in­ter­view Mon­day. “It’s time to go forth.”

The union lost a 2014 vote among all work­ers at Volk­swa­gen AG’s plant in Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee, but then won a vote among 160 main­te­nance work­ers. That was the first-ever win for the UAW at a for­eign-owned auto plant in the US South. Ger­man-based Volk­swa­gen had re­fused to bar­gain with those work­ers, say­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion de­ci­sions should be made by the en­tire hourly work­force. — AP

CAN­TON: In this March 4, 2017, file photo, thou­sands march to Nis­san Mo­tor Co’s Can­ton, Mis­sis­sippi, plant, fol­low­ing a pro-union rally.—- AP

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