DETROIT: Mississippi in "plantation mentality" activist says as calls grow for Nissan to back union
Nissan employs about 5,000 at Canton, building seven models - its first US 'transplant' was in Smyrna, Tennessee. Workers pictured here are assembling Quest doors
A powerful coalition of activists supported by the UAW is lining up to challenge what it claims is Nissan's reluctance to allow workers at the Canton plant in Mississippi to have a trade union - although the automaker counters there is almost no appetite for organised labour.
The Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN) representing Baptist ministers, a state senator, civil rights activists and the Hollywood star, Danny Glover, among others, made its strongly-held views clear at this week's North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit with a dramatic show of unity that provoked considerable interest in Motown.
"We see workers' rights as civil rights," said Mississippi NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) president, Derrick Johnson. "If Nissan workers in France and Israel are organised, why should not Mississippi workers have the right to a free election?
"In the state of Mississippi we have struggled for too long and too hard for workers to have a voice. Mississippi has a long history of exploiting workers for cheap labour - we should stand up as a community and support the workers of Nissan.
"Treat Mississippi workers fair and just and allow them to have a voice in their workspace."
Johnson's comments were reinforced by the presence of General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi president and MAFFAN chair, Reverend Isiac Jackson, who claimed Nissan had threatened to leave the state if workers unionised.
"While we welcome the presence of foreign-owned companies like Nissan in Mississippi, we will not tolerate a company treating Mississippians as second-class citizens," said Jackson.
"It is about Mississippi continuing the plantation mentality."
Nissan has fought back however, maintaining, in an email to just-auto, its staff had in the past overwhelmingly rejected union membership and that the UAW auto union's campaign to 'organise' labour in Canton had received little interest.
“The allegations being made by the UAW against Nissan are unfounded," said Nissan North America VP, corporate communications, Dave Reuter.
"Nissan employees in Canton enjoy jobs that are among the most secure in Mississippi and offer some of the highest manufacturing wages in the state, strong benefits, a working environment that exceeds industry standards and an open dialogue based on transparency and mutual respect.
"Nissan employees have voted overwhelmingly in the past to reject union representation, and just as with past efforts, the UAW’s current campaign in Canton, Mississippi, has received little interest among employees.”
MAFFAN's campaign is also being backed by Mississippi senator Kenny Jones who said there was a feeling employees should be content to have a job.
"We have to ask ourselves, with the unskilled job labour market we have got, are unions even going to be viable in Mississippi?" Jones told just-auto. "The mentality is you should be glad to have a job."
Actor Danny Glover equally threw his weight behind the movement, maintaining there had to be a "new model of engagement," and saying Nissan staff had asked him to join the campaign.
"Mississippi is a right to work state," Glover told just-auto. "That does not mean people have the right to organise and the right to vote on a union. In South Africa, Nissan has to deal with a union and other plants as well. Those workers have only asked to vote on the right to have a union.
"Nissan workers have asked me to join their campaign. "They have taken a courageous stand here. They are standing up for their families and community. For them to vote to have a union is a step to take control of their lives and their community."
After it looked a bit like just-auto had become part of the global Toyota PR machine last week, this week, for a day or two at least, you could have been forgiven for thinking we had now 'crossed over...
You could have been forgiven for thinking just-auto had become an extension of the Toyota PR machine this week, given the number of stories about the automaker. Just the way it goes, some times....
Renault is expected to complete its joint venture agreement with Dongfeng Motor Group, China's second-largest vehicle manufacturer, this month ahead of launching production in the country next year, a...
European Commission (EC) authorities have fined four major automotive component producers a total of EUR141.8m (US$182m) for operating wire harness cartels to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Renault....
Fiat said on Tuesday (9 July) it would spend EUR550m ($707.55m) to build light commercial vehicles in Italy over the next five years in the joint venture with PSA, which will spend EUR150m....
Nissan Motor's EUR147.5m (US$191.31m) spend at its Sunderland plant in north east England for European assembly of the redesigned Note includes axles, cylinder heads, camshafts and petrol engines for ...
India's three wheeler manufacturer Bajaj Auto confirmed it expects to launch a four wheel passenger vehicle in the next year....
Nissan Motor premium brand Infiniti has named a new head of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA)....
- THE WEEK THAT WAS: Chinese scoop up Pirelli
- ANALYSIS: VW Group - success and succession
- Briefing: developments in powertrain batteries
- VEHICLE ANALYSIS: A new Volkswagen for the fleets
- COMMENT: Russia - it is rocket science
- New York show debuts: Porsche Boxster Spyder added
- Volvo Cars to build US factory
- Mahindra throws in the Brazil towel
- GM management outlines reasons for Russia rethink
- Car sharing won't replace car ownership - BMW