A vote that the United Auto Workers (UAW) union sees as an opportunity to gain traction in the American South commenced Thursday.
Workers at a Nissan auto plant in Canton, Miss. vote Thursday and Friday on whether or not to organize as a labor union under the UAW. The voting began 2 a.m. Thursday and continues until 7 p.m. Friday. It marks the largest public effort by organized labor to gain ground in the Deep South ever since President Donald Trump’s election.
Close to 4,000 workers are eligible to vote at the Canton plant, which is one of Japanese-based Nissan Motor Co.’s largest in the world. The Canton facility produces eight models and has the capacity to churn out 450,000 vehicles per year. The facility is also one of the state’s largest employers, upping the political ante. (RELATED: Alabama Leaders Warns The UAW TO Stay Out)
Advocates for unionization say that the plant has a track record of safety violations, including a number of citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in recent years.
Opponents of unionization say that Nissan pays some of the best wages in the state, and that unionization under the UAW threatens a good situation.
“Black people are doing much better here since Nissan came,” Tony Jacobson, a 52-year-old African American employee told Reuters Tuesday. “I’m trying to save our livelihoods, I don’t want Canton to be like Detroit.”
The viewpoint of Jacobson is a stark contrast from the message being sent to Mississippians by the likes of Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and big labor. Sanders and Mississippi National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Derrick Johnson held a “March on Mississippi” in the spring, trying to tie the union vote to a larger civil rights struggle.
“UAW bosses are pulling out all the stops bringing in union-backed politicians and Hollywood celebrities, but it remains unclear how giving UAW officials monopoly bargaining powers over all the workers at the Nissan plant, including those who oppose the UAW, will actually bring any tangible benefits for those in Canton,” Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Big Labor, Big Hollywood Descends On Mississippi Ahead Of Union Vote)
“Clearly the UAW bosses in Detroit desperately need a symbolic victory and a new stream of union dues, but that isn’t a reason for workers at Nissan to sign up to be the guinea pig for this UAW experiment,” Semmens said.
If the vote is unsuccessful, it would only serve to weaken the UAW ahead of 2019 negotiations with Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler.
TheDCNF reached out to Nissan and the UAW for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.
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