Civil Rights in the Media: The Campaign for Fairness at Nissan and the Right to Organize

The organizing campaign at Nissan has been filled with memorable moments of courage and solidarity, as workers, students, clergy, civil rights leaders, and leaders of global labor unions have come together in this historic effort.  There has been a lot of media coverage of the issues we are confronting, from Nissan’s anti-union campaign and intimidation of workers to the issues of a temporary workforce and gaining the right to organize.  We’ve picked three of our favorite articles to share in case you missed them:

  1. “UAW Battles for Human Rights in Organizing Drive at Mississippi Nissan Plant” by Roger Bybee

Roger Bybee’s beautiful piece in In These Times puts our effort in the context of the civil rights movement. He writes:

“The struggle for union recognition has become fused with the fight for recognition of workers as full human beings at the Canton plant. Nissan’s efforts to scare workers away from unionization have been all-too reminiscent of the era when African-Americans were controlled through fear and deemed unworthy of the rights afforded to others…Union supporters find it degrading that Nissan has been unwilling to accept a union in Mississippi when it has worked with unions across the world, from its home in Japan to a union representing primarily black workers in South Africa.”

  1. “The Battle to Unionize Nissan” by Joe Atkins

Joe Atkins is a journalist and University of Mississippi professor who has described our commitment to take our struggle for the right to organize all over the country and the world.

For this article, Professor Atkins interviewed lots of people, including Mark Klinedinst, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Southern Mississippi, who said unions can actually help companies.

“Typically, unions have been in the forefront in getting better wages, benefits, working conditions,” he says. “That is a very honorable tradition. It helps make for a stronger middle class. I think it is important as corporations get larger, that employees have a chance to have a voice as well. Modern management says that in all parts of an institution, important stakeholders should have a voice. Unions could offer that channel.”

The prosperity the nation enjoyed from the 1940s through the 1960s came at a time when union representation was at its highest, Klinedinst says. “We’d be helped by having a stronger middle class,” he says.

  1. “A Civil Right to Unionize,” by Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Marvit

This is an important column that appeared in the New York Times stating that the right to organize is fundamental and should be enshrined in the civil rights laws.

The authors wrote:

“[P]olling has shown that a majority of nonunion workers would like to join a union if they could…

[T]he greatest impediment to unions is weak and anachronistic labor laws.  It’s time to add the right to organize a labor union, without employer discrimination, to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, because that right is as fundamental as freedom from discrimination in employment and education. This would enshrine what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed in 1961 at an A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention: “The two most dynamic and cohesive liberal forces in the country are the labor movement and the Negro freedom movement.  Together, we can be architects of democracy.”

4. “The Ed Show: Civil Rights on the Factory Floor

Following our meeting at Tougaloo College where more than 400 people showed up, the Ed Show featured the campaign as a civil rights struggle.

Mississippi NAACP leader Derrick Johnson said:

 

“Worker rights have always been civil rights issues. The struggle we had to abolish slavery was about worker rights. The struggles in the `60s were about the right of workers being able to organize. In fact, Dr. King was assassinated as he was organizing workers in Memphis who wanted the right to have a voice as sanitation workers. So we see worker rights on the same playing field as voting rights, civil rights. It is about human dignity.”

These are just a few examples of many that have brought to light the story of Nissan workers in Canton, Miss.  To see more coverage on the issue, visit our media page at http://dobetternissan.org/media/

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