In a spectacle seldom seen because many unions withdraw election petitions when they see a loss coming, voters at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, voted overwhelmingly (2,244-1,307) against representation by the United Auto Workers union on August 3 and 4. The Union had defeats at the plant in 1989 and 2001, and the recent defeat demonstrates a continuing lack of success in wall-to-wall units in manufacturing facilities of foreign automobile manufacturers in the South. Some commentators have attributed the loss to perceptions of an “outsiders’ campaign” by the UAW, which brought in celebrities such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and actor Danny Glover, who knew little about the area and the people. Other commentators noted that, in a state such as Mississippi where lucrative jobs are at a premium, the UAW faces an uphill battle trying to persuade employees to put those earnings at risk on the mere hope of getting “UAW” wages and benefits. In any event, according to one news report, the wages at Canton are only slightly lower than UAW wages, and the retirement plan is comparable.
The UAW leadership has filed objections and unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, alleging that Nissan engaged in an unprecedented campaign of corporate threats and intimidation. How it all plays out at the Board remains to be seen. Again, as the Board majority shifts, so may the likelihood of any ultimate change in the outcome. In the meantime, observers may want to keep an eye on the UAW’s attempt to organize workers at Tesla in Fremont, California.