UAW Makes Second Run in Right-to-Work South

Mississippi Nissan workers will vote on unionization in August

UAW President Dennis Williams / Getty Images
• July 21, 2017 5:00 am


United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams said he is confident the union will win a historic election in right-to-work Mississippi.

The union, which represents 415,963 auto industry employees, has been campaigning to organize thousands of Nissan workers since 2013 in a bid to gain a foothold in the right-to-work South where companies are manufacturing cars in increasing volume. The union filed an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board on July 10. Williams said he is confident the union will win, predicting it would add between 3,500 and 3,800 members to its union ranks.

"It's major to us … we went in there very confident that we had a strong group of people in the bargaining unit … that wanted a union," he said at a media roundtable on Thursday. "We felt very strongly that the time was now for us to [hold an election]."

Nissan has opposed unionization publicly. It said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon that it does not believe "UAW representation is in the best interest of Nissan Canton" or the 6,400 people that hold temporary and full-time positions at the factory.

"They enjoy good, stable, safe jobs with some of the best wages and benefits in Mississippi. We do not believe that UAW representation is in the best interest of Nissan Canton and the people who work here," the company said in a statement.

Williams accused the company of violating federal labor law by threatening and intimidating workers. He said Nissan management has told workers that it would close the plant if they decided to unionize.

"Nissan has decided to run an anti-union campaign and they're doing very typical Nissan, intimidation and threats with the workers," he said. "We're monitoring that."

Nissan has denied any wrongdoing, saying that Williams's accusations are "totally false." The company said its communications with employees have focused on giving them more perspective about the effects of unionization.

"Allegations of intimidation made by the union are totally false," the company said in the statement. "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 company has the right and obligation to provide employees with full information, and it will continue to do so."

The UAW has faced an uphill climb to organize in the South. It launched an aggressive bid to unionize a Chattanooga Volkswagen plant in 2014. Plant workers rejected the union by a 712-626 vote. The union has persisted in organizing the workplace, launching a labor group among supporters inside the plant. VW has refused to negotiate with that unit, and the matter of whether it is a legitimate bargaining unit is the subject of a federal lawsuit.

The Nissan vote is scheduled to take place on August 3 and 4.