Young activists continue the student legacy of civil rights advocacy during 1964’s Freedom Summer by rallying for workers’ labor rights at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, with actor and activist Danny Glover, community supporters and civil rights veterans


Danny Glover stands with student activists supporting Nissan workers

Participants came to the South to support labor rights for Nissan workers as called for by the late mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Lumumba 

(CANTON) – Student activists from the Mississippi Student Justice Alliance (MSJA), Youth Congress and Concerned Students for a Better Nissan (CSBN) led Nissan workers, supporters from the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN) and actor and activist Danny Glover in a rally at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, today, demanding that Nissan allow a fair union election and respect the civil and labor rights of workers by stopping anti-union intimidation and threats of workers who want to form a union. The rally, with the theme Tell Nissan: Labor Rights are Civil Rights, was part of the celebration of Freedom Summer’s 50th Anniversary in Jackson.

Students came to the South for the event to emphasize the connection between the struggle for workers’ rights at Nissan and the student-led civil rights fight of Freedom Summer 50 years ago. The event also was held in honor of the late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, a veteran civil rights activist and supporter of Nissan workers, who called for the rally.

“Our rally showed that as long as Nissan workers can’t exercise their fundamental labor right to form a union, which is a civil right, then the civil rights struggles of 50 years ago will continue. And young people, again, will lead the way in that fight,” said MSJA and CSBN member Monica Atkins.

Getting fired up at the rally

Student activists gathered to help Nissan workers gain a voice in the workplace.

The student groups that participated in today’s rally have a growing membership of over 1,000 from over 60 colleges nationwide and support from international student groups for their advocacy for Nissan workers. Today’s rally continued the student influence on the civil rights struggle of today – labor rights for Nissan workers. Fifty years ago during Freedom Summer, young people sparked national attention on the lack of civil and voting rights for African Americans in Mississippi. Today, Freedom Summer activists from CSBN continued the civil rights legacy by focusing the public’s attention on the lack of labor rights for Nissan workers. Students this week also continued recruiting more young activists to strategize and plan campus and community activities this fall to raise awareness about Nissan’s denial of workers’ labor rights.

MSJA and CSBN member Joshua Dedmond said young people have a rich history of highlighting injustice in Mississippi, starting with Freedom Summer in 1964. Today is no different. “Fifty years ago students brought the lack of civil and voting rights in Mississippi to the nation’s attention. In 2014, we’re shining a light on the lack of labor rights for workers at Nissan. Their labor rights struggle is a continuation of the civil rights battle young people fought in 1964,” said Dedmond.

Nissan workers and their supporters are calling upon Nissan to live up to the global labor standards it claims to espouse and allow workers a fair union election, in an environment free of the company’s threats and intimidation toward pro-union workers. They also want Nissan to retract their threats and allow union supporters equal time to address the workforce.

Nissan’s threats and intimidation against a pro-union worker in Canton resulted in the company reaching a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board over unfair labor practice charges. The company’s recent firing of another Canton worker because he wants a union generated so much national and international labor opposition, in addition to student advocacy at the plant to get the worker’s job back, that the company reinstated the worker with back pay.youngpeople_web

Targeted discrimination and firing of pro-union workers are just some of the many scare tactics Nissan uses in the workplace to discourage U.S. workers from organizing a union. Nissan managers have implied that the plant will close if workers vote for a union. They have also subjected employees to one-on-one questioning by managers, in-plant anti-union video messages, and roundtable discussions aimed at disparaging unions and promising dire consequences if workers organize.

The Nissan workers’ Fair Election Committee, backed by Mississippi’s civil rights, community and religious supporters from MAFFAN, student activists, celebrity supporters Danny Glover, Common and Diddy, and unions and human rights organizations around the world have continued a sustained public effort to highlight Nissan’s labor rights abuses in the U.S.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Joan Silvi, UAW Public Relations department, (248) 721-1162,   |