Nis­san work­ers re­ject union bid at US Deep South fac­tory

Vote ends bit­ter di­vide in com­pany

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

CAN­TON, United States: Nis­san has de­feated a bid by the United Auto Work­ers to union­ize em­ploy­ees at a fac­tory in the US Deep South, end­ing a bit­ter con­test that crit­ics said laid bare a racial di­vide in the com­pany. Some 60 per­cent of the ap­prox­i­mately 3,500 work­ers in the Mis­sis­sippi fac­tory re­jected the union in the vote that ended Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to re­sults re­leased by the Na­tional Labor Re­la­tions Board, with prounion em­ploy­ees vow­ing to con­tinue their fight.

In a state­ment fol­low­ing the tally’s re­lease the com­pany said it be­lieves the out­come “po­si­tions Nis­san to be com­pet­i­tive in the fu­ture” and urged the United Auto Work­ers union to end its bid to or­ga­nize em­ploy­ees. Nis­san had been ac­cused of con­duct­ing a vi­cious anti-union cam­paign at the plant-where 80 per­cent of the bluecol­lar work force is African-Amer­i­can, and about 3,000 tem­po­rary and con­tract em­ploy­ees work­ing at the plant were not el­i­gi­ble to cast a bal­lot.

“It ain’t over yet,” Michael Carter, a Nis­san em­ployee who helped lead the union drive, told a crowd of more than 100 union sup­port­ers af­ter the votes were counted.

“We are never giv­ing up,” he added. Af­ter years of work try­ing to or­ga­nize for­eign car fac­to­ries in the South, UAW pres­i­dent Den­nis Williams called the re­sults a set­back for work­ers­but said de­feat should not be con­ceded. “Nis­san and its anti-worker al­lies ran a vi­cious cam­paign against its own work­force that was com­prised of in­tense scare tac­tics, mis­in­for­ma­tion and in­tim­i­da­tion,” he said.

A com­plaint by the NLRB Fri­day ac­cused Nis­san of threat­en­ing em­ploy­ees with ter­mi­na­tion be­cause of union ac­tiv­i­ties, and threat­en­ing to close the plant if work­ers voted to union­ize, charges Nis­san ve­he­mently de­nied. “Nis­san is run­ning one of the nas­ti­est anti-union cam­paigns in the mod­ern his­tory of the Amer­i­can labor move­ment,” Gary Cas­teel, sec­re­tary-trea­surer of the UAW, said in a re­cent state­ment.

Jobs for de­pressed re­gion

The fac­tory sits in what is his­tor­i­cally one of the poor­est ar­eas of the poor­est state in the union, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment cen­sus data. Com­pa­nies of­ten choose to lo­cate in the US South, where wages are low, un­em­ploy­ment is high and the states are gen­er­ally anti-union. While the pro-union forces man­aged to ring the plant with sup­port­ers as the vot­ing be­gan Thurs­day, work­ers op­posed to the union had fought back on so­cial me­dia and lo­cal talk ra­dio. The anti-union cam­paign said the UAW’s pres­ence had forced plants to close in other parts of the coun­try and said the union used dues money to sup­port Demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates like Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Nis­san said the plant, which sits along the free­way just north of the state cap­i­tal of Jack­son, em­ploys 6,400 work­ers, adding a mea­sure of pros­per­ity to a de­pressed re­gion.

Prior to the vote’s con­clu­sion fac­tory worker WaShad Catch­ings, 37, said the com­pany seems to have dif­fer­ent stan­dards for its plants in Mis­sis­sippi. He has worked for Nis­san since the plant opened in 2003 and grad­u­ally came around to sup­port­ing the UAW.

“We don’t want to bank­rupt the com­pany but we want to ne­go­ti­ate,” he said. “We want a seat at the ta­ble. Let’s ne­go­ti­ate. That’s not too much to ask.”The Delta, as the re­gion is known, is con­sid­ered the birth­place of the Blues, and res­i­dents are pre­dom­i­nantly AfricanAmer­i­cans, the de­scen­dants of the slaves and later poor share crop­pers who made the re­gion one of the most im­por­tant cot­ton-grow­ing re­gions in the coun­try.

Ma­chines now har­vest the cot­ton but poverty and lim­ited ed­u­ca­tion have re­stricted eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. The UAW has lever­aged its his­tory of sup­port for the Civil Rights move­ment to es­tab­lish a foothold in the com­mu­nity. Prior to the vote Har­ley Shaiken, a labor ex­pert at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-Berke­ley, said a loss would not nec­es­sar­ily end the drive to or­ga­nize. “I know the union isn’t go­ing away,” Shaiken said. “They have suc­ceeded in build­ing a real so­cial move­ment around the plant.”

—AP

CAN­TON: Nis­san em­ployee Betty Jones ex­presses her dis­ap­point­ment at pro-union sup­port­ers los­ing their bid to form a union at the Nis­san ve­hi­cle as­sem­bly plant in Can­ton, Mis­sis­sippi on Fri­day.

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