UAW files pe­ti­tions for vote

Nis­san op­poses union at Mis­sis­sippi plant; Tenn. plant said no twice

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Jeff Amy

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.

As­so­ci­ated Press file

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.

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