Group says temporary workers must be paid equal to regular Nissan workers, and the climate of fear against speaking up against unsafe working conditions must stop
(Smyrna, Tenn.) – Danny Glover, Nissan workers and their supporters held a press conference July 30 to talk about Nissan’s high number of temporary workers at its U.S. plants in Smyrna and Canton, Miss. They also said the company should stop its intimidation and implied threats against workers who want the right to organize a union in the workplace, and against workers who fear expressing safety concerns despite the workplace deaths of two workers in the past four months.
Nissan relies heavily on temporary workers, while many do the same work as regular workers but receive lower pay, fewer benefits and have no job security. Since the deaths of two Smyrna Nissan workers in recent months, many Smyrna Nissan workers also are increasingly worried about safe working conditions but feel intimidated against expressing those concerns because of the company’s threats.
Members of the multi-state student movement that includes Concerned Students for a Better Nissan and various Student Justice Alliances from several states have launched a review of work-related injuries at Nissan and how injured workers feel intimidated through distribution of a detailed survey to Nissan’s regular and temporary workers. The survey is collecting information about the workers’ health and safety experiences in the Smyrna Nissan plant and is part of Mississippi Student Justice Alliance’s expanding reach across the U.S. that includes talking with auto customers at auto shows, dealerships, on college campuses and at community forums. It also includes student protests at Nissan dealerships in Brazil about poor treatment of U.S. workers.
“It’s unconscionable that a company can operate in the United States while their own workers are injured on the job and then ignore the worries of employees,” said actor and activist Danny Glover. “It’s undemocratic to prevent these workers from having a voice to express their concerns without fear of reprisal from the company,” said Glover.
Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson traveled from Mississippi to Smyrna for the event in support of Smyrna Nissan workers. Johnson says Nissan workers in both Tennessee and Canton, Miss., should not be temporary and should not have their civil and human rights violated with implied and threats from the company simply for wanting to exercise their legal right to have a voice on the job. “Nissan has unionized workforces in many other countries where they operate,” said Johnson. “Yet, they come to the U.S. and deny Americans fundamental human rights they allow in other countries. Why does Nissan treat our workers like second-class global citizens?,” added Johnson.
Mississippi Student Justice Alliance member Kimar Cain said he’s standing up for current Nissan workers but also for the Nissan workers of the future from his generation who don’t want to be mistreated on the job. Cain says they’re glad Nissan has located plants in the U.S., but Mississippi and Tennessee workers don’t want to be lower paid, temporary workers. “They also want to be treated with respect, with the ability to have input into their working conditions without the company creating a climate of fear and making workers worry that their plant will close if they exercise their basic human rights,” said Cain.
Workers believe having a union would provide them a voice at the table with management and the ability to address safety issues without fear of retribution from the company.
Nissan must respect workers and their community by:
- Treating workers with dignity and respect. Nissan continues to deny workers in the Smyrna and Canton plants a fair union election and a safe working environment. Nissan has intimidated workers who are interested in having a union and want to speak up about safety concerns, even though it is their right to choose for themselves.
- Making all temp workers permanent and making their pay equal to regular workers. Nissan employs a high percentage of temporary workers who for years receive less pay, limited benefits and have no job security.
Nissan workers in the U.S. cannot rely on weak U.S. labor laws to adequately protect their fundamental right to organize. Nissan workers are asking the company to abide by principles for a fair union election, including:
- Prohibiting the union or employer from disparaging the other side;
- Providing equal time and access to union supporters to speak with workers when the employer holds a meeting against the union on company time;
- Prohibiting the use of coercion, threats and intimidation to prevent workers from exercising their right to join or refraining from joining the UAW.
For information, contact: Lauren Llewellyn, firstname.lastname@example.org, (804) 675-8153