Sun, Aug 06, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Nissan workers reject UAW union

‘UNETHICAL’:The UAW has accused Nissan of providing it with a flawed worker contact list and threatening workers with unemployment if they voted for the union

AP, CANTON, Mississippi

Workers at a Nissan Motor Co assembly plant in Mississippi have voted against forming a union, adding to decades of futility by United Auto Workers (UAW) organizers at foreign-owned auto plants in the US’ south.

Representatives of Nissan and the UAW said on late Friday that 2,244 workers, or 62 percent, voted against the UAW, while 1,307, or 38 percent, favored the union.

Company spokeswoman Parul Bajaj said employees’ voice has been heard.

“They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company,” she said in a statement. “Our expectation is that the UAW will respect and abide by their decision and cease their efforts to divide our Nissan family.”

The UAW has never fully organized an international automaker in the traditionally anti-union south, although it did persuade some maintenance workers to join at a Volkswagen AG plant in Tennessee.

The UAW’s lack of influence among southern auto workers has reduced its bargaining power when Detroit automakers lose market share and close plants. After pouring resources into the organizing drive at Nissan, this loss could leave UAW leaders with tough decisions.

“The result of the election was a setback for these workers, the UAW and working Americans everywhere, but in no way should it be considered a defeat,” UAW president Dennis Williams said in a statement.

The union filed seven new charges with the National Labor Relations Board just before polls closed on Friday alleging that Nissan had broken federal labor laws during the campaign. If the labor board rules in favor of the charges, the board could order a fresh election.

Among the claims: Nissan provided a faulty contact list to the union, it caused a contract worker to be filed because of his union support, and a manager told workers on July 28 that they would lose benefits it they voted for a union.

UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel had telegraphed the move on Monday last week, when he alleged illegal activity by the company.

“Despite claiming for years to be neutral on the question of a union, Nissan waged one of the most illegal and unethical anti-union campaigns that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Casteel said in a statement on Friday.

Nissan spokeswoman Bajaj said the company lived up to its obligations in providing the list. She generally denied the other charges.

“The UAW is again launching baseless and unsubstantiated allegations against Nissan Canton in a desperate, last-minute attempt to undermine the integrity of the secret ballot voting process,” Bajaj said in a statement.

For years, union organizers reached out to the majority African-American workforce at the Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant, arguing that workers’ rights are civil rights.

They pointed to reduced retirement and health benefits for longtime workers and lower pay scales for 1,500 Nissan workers who began as contract laborers in recent years. White and other union supporters said after the vote they felt those newer employees, in particular, had been intimidated.

A 2015 study by the Center for Automotive Research found that Nissan paid an average of US$44 an hour in pay and benefits, toward the low end of all automakers. Nissan has given pay raises since then.

Workers at Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, voted against UAW representation in 1989 and 2001, but this was the first election at the Mississippi plant. The UAW also lost a 2014 vote among all workers at Volkswagen in 2014 before winning a second vote among 160 maintenance workers.

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