New York elected officials and labor leaders answer the call to join Nissan workers for the 50th Anniversary Freedom Summer
(New York) – Mississippi Nissan workers traveled to New York City as the annual New York International Auto Show began to ask the city’s elected officials and New York labor leaders to come to the South this summer to support their labor and civil rights to form a union at Nissan, an effort which Nissan has been denying for years. Workers urged the officials to join them in Mississippi’s 50th Anniversary Freedom Summer celebration in June, which commemorates passage of the Voting Rights Act and other civil rights achievements in the South. A march to the Nissan plant will be held during the week of Freedom Summer activities.
The city and labor leaders expressed their support for the Nissan workers today, some of whom are planning to travel to Mississippi to march with Nissan workers who are being intimidated and threatened by the company for advocating for their labor and civil rights to unionize. Workers want a union election process that is free of intimidation and threats from the company, and includes the ability to also hear pro-union viewpoints.
Mississippi Nissan workers Betty Jones and Willard “Chip” Wells described at the press conference how Nissan treats workers who want to exercise their right to form a union, a right granted to Nissan workers all over the world but not in the U.S. “The company’s intimidation and threats have been going on for years,” said Jones. “A fundamental right of workers is to organize. That’s a labor right and a civil right,” said Jones. Jones and Wells said the company intimidates workers by holding one-on-one and roundtable anti-union meetings, showing anti-union videos, creates a climate of fear by implying the plant will close if workers unionize and doesn’t allow an equal amount of pro-union views to be heard. Workers want a union to have a voice on the job so they’ll have input into workplace concerns such as unsafe working conditions and the company’s treatment of injured workers, and the company’s growing use of temporary workers who do the same work as direct hires but for much less pay and benefits, and with some left in temp status for years.
UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner said Nissan’s treatment of workers is an example of how companies use fear and intimidation to thwart workers’ right to organize. “New York labor supporters will not stand by and allow Nissan to deny workers their fundamental right to organize. We’ll be by their side for the Freedom Summer anniversary in June, ready to march with workers,” said Kushner.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James says New Yorkers will once again travel to the South to fight injustice. “Nissan workers are being denied their basic right to form a union,” said James. “That’s a denial of their civil rights. Mississippians know all too well the history of civil rights oppression in their state. Nissan should not be allowed to turn back the civil rights clock on Mississippi citizens simply because the company operates a plant there,” she said.
Pastor William Seaton of Churches United to Save and Heal said New Yorkers from civic, labor, civil rights and religious communities have a history of traveling to the South to fight unfair treatment. “On this anniversary of landmark civil rights accomplishments, such as the 1964 signing of the Voting Rights Act, it’s fitting that the civil rights struggle continues with these groups coming together again, this time on behalf of Nissan workers,” said Seaton. “Their labor rights are indeed civil rights. We will march with Nissan workers this summer in support of that,” he said.
Nissan workers have adopted the slogan “Tell Nissan: Labor rights are civil rights” and see their effort for a fair union election as an extension of the civil rights movement from half a century ago.
“We will march with Nissan workers in June because Mississippi is where the effort to protect labor and civil rights is most crucial today. It’s where the legacy of labor and civil rights converge,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. “When New York labor supporters travel to the South this summer to stand with Nissan workers, they know they’re standing up against a company that’s denying workers their fundamental labor, and civil rights, to form a union. Nissan needs to stop intimidating and threatening workers and agree to honor the Fair Election Principles of a free and fair union election,” said Cilento.
For more information, contact Lauren Llewellyn, (804) 675-8153, Lauren.Llewellyn@padillacrt.com