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Workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. worked to unionize for several years before an unsuccessful vote on Friday.

Workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. worked to unionize for several years before an unsuccessful vote on Friday. (Photo: Peoples World/Flickr/cc)

UAW Vows to Fight Nissan's Unfair Practices in Court Following Union Vote

After being threatened with potential job loss, Nissan plant workers in Mississippi overwhelmingly voted against unionizing Friday night

Julia Conley

Following this week's vote against unionization at a Nissan plant in Mississippi, the United Auto Workers (UAW) are asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to proceed with a trial looking into Nissan's unfair treatment of workers, as well as the intimidation tactics it used to discourage employees from unionizing.

More than 60 percent of Nissan workers opposed unionizing at the plant in a vote that took place Thursday and Friday, following years of organizing efforts by the UAW at the plant.

The majority of workers at the plant in Canton, Miss., are African-American, and white supervisors at the plant have been accused of giving preferential treatment to white workers.

Nissan's practice of hiring contract workers was also a key point in the dispute, with the pro-union movement arguing that the company’s lower compensation for contract workers drove wages down for all employees and left full-time workers without bargaining power.

During the campaign, the anti-union contingent at the plant accused the UAW of disingenuously trying to court black workers by donating to civil rights and religious groups. The UAW countered that it had supported such organizations for decades.

The auto company's management was aggressive in its campaign to fight unionization. Nissan called workers into meetings with management where they were told that should a worker's union stage a strike, employees wouldn't be guaranteed their jobs when they returned. 

"Perhaps recognizing they couldn't keep their workers from joining our union based on the facts," said UAW president Dennis Williams on Friday, "Nissan and its anti-worker allies ran a vicious campaign against its own workforce that was comprised of intense scare tactics, misinformation and intimidation."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced Nissan’s business practices and intimidation tactics in an editorial in the Guardian on Thursday.

Nissan, Sanders wrote, "has union representation in 42 out of 45 of its plants throughout the world—from Japan to France, Australia to Britain. But the company does not want unions in the U.S. south, because unions mean higher wages, safer working conditions, decent healthcare and a secure retirement...If workers are unable to form unions and engage in collective bargaining, Americans throughout this country will continue to work for longer hours for lower wages."

In a statement released after the vote was tallied on Friday night, the UAW stressed that its fight against Nissan's unfair treatment of workers isn't over, as complaints against the company filed through the NLRB are awaiting trial.

"If Nissan is found to have committed the unfair labor practices that are alleged," the UAW said, "the NLRB can go to federal court and seek a binding court order against Nissan that will stop the company from committing such unfair labor practices in the future."

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