A missing ingredient in the civil rights struggle as a whole has been the power of the labor movement… The labor movement, if it is to remain vital, needs to raise the standard of living of all workers, not merely those under contracts. As the relative number of workers in unions drop, the strength of labor will fall if it does not become a social force pressing for greater dimensions of wealth for all who labor.
– Martin Luther King, Jr., Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union meeting, New York City, September 18, 1965
Nissan workers and supporters gathered together at the union hall in Canton for a meaningful ceremony in remembrance of the great civil rights leader on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January. A spiritually uplifting celebration served to remind us all that our struggle for union representation here in Mississippi keeps his legacy alive. Dr. King was a strong supporter of the labor movement, and his last action was to join sanitation workers in Memphis who wanted the right to have a union.
Labor rights ARE civil rights.
Nissan technician and union activist Morris Mock lifted us with his rendition of “My Soul Has Been Anchored In the Lord,” and Rev. Freddy Carson and Dr. Jones led us in opening and closing prayers.
Nissan technician Shelia Dixon opened up the program, welcoming the workers and the community leaders who joined us. Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan members in attendance included:
• Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP
• Jaribu Hill of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Civil Rights
• Perry Perkins from Working Together Jackson
• State Rep. Jim Evans
• Frank Figgers from One Voice
• Rev. Freddy Carson, Rev. Earl Isom and Bishop Ronnie Crudup
• Joel Weathers and other student supporters.
We watched a moving video that featured local clergy and civil rights leaders as well as members of the Nissan Committee for a Fair Election.
Chip Wells thanked everyone for their support as he has had to contend with Nissan’s harassing behavior. Chip, a veteran and 10 ½ year employee at Nissan, never had a single disciplinary action taken against him until after he came out publicly as a union supporter. After he appeared on television speaking for the union, Chip was the target of four disciplinary actions by management, none of them legitimate. Recently, the company would not allow him to return to his job after a medical leave until demonstrations on his behalf took place in Brazil.
The Martin Luther King Day ceremony was a warm, touching event, and following the speeches, song, and prayer, we all shared a beautiful cake decorated with a photograph of Dr. King.
This event helped to ground us spiritually as a community in our civil rights campaign for the right to have a union at Canton Nissan.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice. Here in Mississippi, we pray that our efforts bend the arc towards a just resolution for Nissan workers.