Foreign Automakers, the South, Remain Off-limits to UAW as Nissan Workers Reject Unionization

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
foreign automakers the south remain off limits to uaw as nissan workers reject

The United Auto Workers spared no effort in its attempts to organize foreign automakers operating in the United States, but the workforce — and the South, for the most part — remains off limits to the union.

Yesterday, workers at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi assembly plant voted overwhelmingly to reject the UAW’s overtures, spelling an end to a heated, nearly decade-long unionization bid that saw the union file complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. Both sides have accused the other of dirty and unfair tactics aimed at swaying worker sentiment towards or against organized labor. Both sides, of course, deny any wrongdoing.

The UAW, which failed in two previous attempts to unionize Nissan’s Tennessee plant, described Nissan’s Mississippi efforts as one of the “nastiest anti-union campaigns in the modern history of the American labour movement.” Ultimately, it all came down to the vote.

According to the NLRB, employees voted 2,244 against unionization, with 1,307 voting in favor. Contract workers, who bring the plant’s workforce to 6,500 people, weren’t eligible to vote.

In a statement, the automaker said, “With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard. They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company.”

The UAW, burned in its attempt to expand its presence into the South, rife with foreign automakers, left the battle bruised but, according to president Dennis Williams, not broken.

“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,” Williams said in a statement.

The Canton plant, opened in 2003, produces the Altima, Murano, Frontier, Titan, and NV vans. In the vote’s run-up, the UAW claims Nissan engaged in intimidation tactics, even playing anti-union materials on a constant loop on televisions in the plant’s break rooms. Managers, it alleges, engaged in one-on-one discussions with employees about the dangers of unionization, with ominous presentations delivered to larger groups.

The automaker countered the complaints by saying UAW affiliation would make the plant uncompetitive, threatening workers’ livelihoods.

Given the area’s socioeconomic makeup, race and money factored into the battle, with Nissan claiming the plant lifted the region’s economic fortunes, providing well-paying jobs for workers, many of them African-Americans. Some pro-union forces accused the automaker of favoring white employees, something Nissan denies, while anti-union forces accuse the UAW of trying to buy support in the African-American community through donations to local civil rights and religious groups.

At the end of the day, longstanding workers stand to make nearly as much as those employed by domestic plants in the North, with Nissan matching contributions to 401(k) savings plans and offering a defined contribution retirement plan. Money, especially in a region without much of it, talks.

It’s unlikely the UAW has given up on Nissan. However, last night’s vote will surely turn its focus — at least temporarily — to automakers with a more receptive workforce.

[Sources: Reuters, The New York Times] [Image: Nissan]

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  • Mchan1 Mchan1 on Aug 07, 2017

    Are there any Good reasons why the UAW still exists considering the drop in membership? When it was first created Decades ago, the auto union served a good purpose.. to watch out for the workers. Now, it's as corrupt as the companies that it was created to fight against.

  • 123GONE 123GONE on Aug 16, 2017

    Being raised by pro union parents (pipe fitter) and me working at a unionized Whirlpool at age 18 I was full on union most of my life until just a few yrs ago. Being in my 50's I even went and got the UAW and tried for almost 2 yrs to unionize the last plant I worked at where we made automotive parts for most makes. It was voted down but man it was close and now I'm so glad we failed to get them in. Yes' I'm very glad!! Today' I still support most unions just not the UAW and It has nothing to do with failing to get in at my old job but more what they done at NUMMI in Cali. Anyone thinking they want them involved in their workplace better think again. They are straight up liars to both sides and may likely send your company running to another country to simply start over. I strongly suggest everyone to read this and please spread the link around too because this was just wrong for everyone involved. .

  • 3SpeedAutomatic And this too shall pass.....Ford went thru this when the model T was introduced. It took the moving assembly line to make real money. As time progressed, it got refined, eventually moving to the Model A. Same kind of hiccups with fuel injection, 4 speed automatic, Firestone tires, dashboards with no radio knobs, etc, etc, etc. Same thing with EVs. Yep, a fire or two in the parking lot, espresso time at the charging stations, other issues yet to be encountered, just give it time. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Art Vandelay 2025 Camaro and Challenger
  • Mike Beranek Any car whose engine makes less than 300 ft-lbs of torque.
  • Malcolm Mini temporarily halted manual transmission production but brought it back as it was a surprisingly good seller. The downside is that they should have made awd standard with the manual instead of nixing it. Ford said recently that 4dr were 7% manual take rate and I think the two door was 15%.
  • Master Baiter It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. It will be interesting to see if demand for Ford’s EVs will match the production capacity they are putting on line.