UAW Accuses Nissan of Intimidating Workers as Election Looms

  • Carmaker calls allegations at Mississippi site ‘totally false’
  • Union president says vote scheduled for first week of August

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said managers at Nissan Motor Co.’s Mississippi plant have threatened to close the factory if workers there vote to join the union, even as the company balks at allegations of intimidation.

“Our reports are that they are threatening to close the plant,” Williams said Thursday at a roundtable discussion with reporters at the union’s headquarters in Detroit. “They are running a very Nissan campaign with intimidation and threats.”

Kristina Adamski, a spokeswoman for the automaker, denied Williams’ claims, calling the allegations of intimidation “totally false.” However, unionization at the plant could affect the facility’s global competitiveness, “given the UAW’s history, including strikes, layoffs, and plant closures at UAW-represented plants,” she said in an email.

The UAW has been working with employees at the Canton facility for years and filed a petition last week with the National Labor Relations Board to allow employees to vote on unionizing. The mobilization is the latest step in a lengthy campaign by the UAW at the facility located in the mostly non-unionized U.S. South. Representing workers at the Nissan facility would mark a significant victory for the UAW, which has largely failed to organize Japanese, German or Korean automakers’ U.S. plants.

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“Nissan respects and values the Canton workforce, and our history reflects that we recognize the employees’ rights to decide for themselves whether or not to have third-party representation,” Adamski said. “Voters have the right to know the company’s perspective on what is best for our future and the full story about what it means to have a union. The union only wants employees to hear one side of the story.”

The vote is scheduled for Aug. 3 and 4, Williams said, noting that the union seeks to represent about half of the 6,400 employees in the plant. Some of the workers are contractors or salaried and wouldn’t be represented by the union.

Williams said the UAW wants to get better wages and benefits for Nissan workers and also better job security.

“Right now management can just fire them,” he said. “Workers want a voice in the workplace. They need a contract so the employer can’t just come in and take away their pension.”

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