United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said Thursday he is “confident” the union can win a vote at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi, plant early next month, which would mark a major victory for the union in its attempts to organize in the South.
Williams, who met Thursday with members of the media at the union’s headquarters in Detroit, said he feels at the moment that the vote will pass, but cautioned that “any campaign you do is an ongoing evaluation.”
He said the UAW has received reports of Nissan employees intimidating plant workers that the Canton factory could close, or other things would change if the plant was unionized. A vote is slated over two days, Aug. 3-4.
“Any time you organize, it’s very, very difficult in the United States, especially with the fact companies try to win on the basis of fear,” Williams said. “And it’s hard for employees to get over fear. That’s the toughest thing in an organizing drive.”
Nissan, in a statement, denied the allegations.
“Allegations of intimidation made by the union are totally false. 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,” the Japanese automaker said in a 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 said the pool of workers that could be represented is about 3,500 to 3,800 workers. The factory employs 6,400, including an unknown number of temporary or contract associates who cannot vote.
Williams said workers at the Nissan factory have health and safety issues, need better wages and benefits and more security around their jobs.
He said workers in Canton have been talking to the UAW for a few years and “we felt very strongly that the time is now for us to be there,” Williams said.
The Canton plant, which opened in 2003, builds the Nissan Titan pickup; Nissan Frontier pickup; Nissan NV vans and the Nissan Murano SUV.
The UAW has unsuccessfully tried to organize workers at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant.
Staff writer Jim Lynch contributed.