UAW files petitions for vote
Nissan opposes union at Mississippi plant; Tenn. plant said no twice
JACKSON, MISS.» The United Auto Workers filed petitions Monday to force a unionization election at a Nissan plant in Mississippi after a years-long campaign to build support in a region typically unwelcoming to organized labor.
The UAW declined comment but has scheduled an event Tuesday 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.
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.
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.
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, Tenn., rejected the UAW in 1989 and 2001 votes, but no election has been held at the Mississippi plant in Canton. The Mis- sissippi campaign has featured support from the NAACP and actor Danny Glover, as well as a rally in March headlined by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and former Democratic presidential candidate.
“We see organized labor as a mechanism to give workers and African-Americans a voice around their quality of life,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi branch of the NAACP.
Hightower said the UAW asked to represent all production and maintenance workers at the Canton plant.
The labor board would seek to schedule an election “as soon as possible,” Hightower said. 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.
The move is likely to provoke a reaction from conservative political and economic leaders in Mississippi, who have long been hostile to unions. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed a package of bills intended to make unionization harder in 2014, is among those who have spoken out against the UAW.
Thousands march to Nissan Motor Co.’s Canton, Miss., plant in March following a pro-union rally. A petition has been filed to seek a union vote.