NAACP Passes Resolution Condemning Nissan’s Campaign of Fear and Intimidation
Delegates attending the recent 104th Annual NAACP National Convention in Orlando continued their fight for social justice by voting unanimously to support the workers at Nissan and other automotive plants owned by foreign companies operating in the South.
“The NAACP and the UAW have a long, strong history of standing together in fighting for what is right for workers, families and communities,” said NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Jealous. “This is our mission and our responsibility in advancing universal human and civil rights. In the United States of America, no worker should be threatened or intimidated in their fight for a voice on the job and a chance to build a better life for their families and community.”
Support for the resolution dovetailed with convention theme “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and discussions centered on modern day attempts to roll back the progress of the civil rights era and the efforts of civil and human rights advocates to combat them.
“We are proud of this longstanding partnership with the civil rights community and our shared commitment to fairness for all,” said UAW President Bob King. “This sends a strong message of support to the struggling Nissan workers in Canton and Smyrna who want a solution that gives them dignity and fairness on the job as they create quality products at the best value for customers.”
The resolution, in part, states that the United Nations International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work states that the right to organize unions and participate in collective bargaining is a universal and human right.
The NAACP specifically calls on Nissan and other foreign automakers to grant workers in the United States the same rights as those extended to its workforce in other countries around the World. It calls on Nissan and other foreign automakers to abandon their anti-union agenda and provide American workers with the same human rights to organize a union and engage in collective bargaining that they provide around the world.
Workers and supporters say Nissan has created a climate of fear in the workplace to intimidate workers out of supporting a union, using tactics such as:
- Holding anti-union meetings and roundtable discussions to create an atmosphere of fear
- Showing plant-wide, anti-union videos on TV monitors during the workday
- Implying to workers that unionization results in plant closure or lay-offs
American labor laws are weak, and do not fully protect workers’ fundamental right to organize. Nissan workers are asking the company to abide by the following principles to allow workers to have a union election free of intimidation and a one-sided information campaign:
- Prohibit the union or employer from disparaging the other side
- Provide equal time and access to union supporters to speak with workers when the employer holds a meeting against the union on company time
- Prohibit the use of coercion, threats and intimidation to prevent workers from exercising their right to join or refrain from joining the UAW
“The NAACP,” said Jealous, “will work with unions, community leaders, clergy, students, civil rights leaders and other partner organizations to demand that Nissan and other foreign automakers respect the workers’ right to a free and fair election to unionize,” Jealous said.
“Our members also made it astoundingly clear that we are proud to stand with the UAW and all like-minded individuals, organizations and groups in the fight against this tyranny that puts the American Dream up for sale to the highest bidder while workers, their families and our communities suffer,” Jealous said.
Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, Publishes Major Op-ed by Bishop Crudup, Calling Nissan’s Conduct Unethical
The Clarion Ledger published an important op-ed by Bishop Ronnie C. Crudup Sr., administrative bishop for the Fellowship of International Churches and senior pastor of New Horizon Church International in Jackson. In the article, Bishop Crudup noted that “Nissan is a good union company in countries all over the world but not in the United States,” adding, “Nissan has reacted harshly and unethically to its Mississippi employees’ desire to exercise their fundamental right to organize.”
The Bishop wrote that he has spoken to dozens of Nissan workers who love their jobs and want to retire from Nissan, but they also “desire respect for their work, a forum in which to address unjust conditions and recourse in disagreements.” He noted that “the workers at Nissan and other auto plants in the South are underrepresented. They have no one on a day-to-day basis to advocate for them and generally have little recourse if they have been treated unjustly at work.”
It is most important that workers themselves freely choose whether to unionize without fear or intimidation. He has chosen to become involved in the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan because “of principle, justice and support for the little guy. I believe that in America, a group of workers should be able to seek representation if they choose and hear from both sides equally, free of harassment and intimidation. Once there is a free and fair process, I will be satisfied with either direction that the workers decide to take.”
Concerned Students for a Better Nissan Educates Customers About Company’s Treatment of Workers
On behalf of Nissan workers organizing a union, celebrity activist Danny Glover and Mississippi student activists recruited hundreds of student volunteers on a spring campus tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Mississippi Student Justice Alliance (MSJA) is focusing on expanding support for Nissan workers across the southeast U.S. Student interns from MSJA have traveled to a number of domestic auto shows and have held campus events in support of Nissan workers. Students are urging customers at Nissan dealerships, to “Choose Justice,” explaining that Nissan makes a great car, but its treatment of its U.S. workers is unacceptable. “We’re really excited about the positive response we’ve received from
young people in Miami; students are becoming increasingly aware of the situation in MS and aren’t tolerating the unethical treatment of Nissan workers,” said Katriñe Arnedo, who will be a senior this fall at the University of Miami.
Brazilian Delegation Spotlights Nissan Misconduct
At the invitation of the three largest union federations in Brazil, a delegation from Mississippi traveled to Brazil at the end of June to share the story of Mississippi Nissan workers. Brazilian trade unionists and community activists expressed strong support for the right of Nissan workers to freely exercise their right to join a union, and they made a firm commitment that they would back-up this support with continuing actions to raise awareness among the Brazilian public. Several demonstrations at Nissan dealerships in Sao Paulo and a rally of over 600 workers at the Renault plant showcased the Brazilians outrage at Nissan’s suppression of worker rights in Mississippi.
The delegation included President of the Mississippi NAACP Derrick Johnson, Nissan technicians Carl Patton, Wayne Walker and Morris Mock, UAW President Bob King, and actor/activist Danny Glover. Glover’s involvement drew much media attention, and he appeared on the Joe Suares Show, a very popular program on TV Globo. There was extensive coverage of the delegation’s trip in major Brazilian media.
The trip was packed with important events, including a session with the chief of staff to the President of Brazil, a meeting with the Mayor of Sao Paolo, and a legislative hearing on Nissan’s violation of worker rights in the U.S. There were also meetings with the leaders of the major labor federations, UGT, CUT and Forca Sindical, as well as community and national civil rights organizations. Brazil has a special judicial system for labor matters, and the delegation met with justices of the Brazilian labor court. A high point of the trip was the opportunity to meet with former Brazilian President Lula, who earlier had condemned Nissan’s conduct in a speech to a UAW convention in Washington. Before becoming President of Brazil, Lula was a leader of the Brazilian auto workers union.
The Brazilian people embraced the delegation with warm and enthusiastic encouragement. Public opinion in Brazil strongly favors worker rights, and there is great disappointment with Nissan’s decision to suppress union activity in the U.S. If a global corporation targets the workers of one country, there is concern about what country will be next. Nissan now cooperates with unions in Brazil, as well as Japan and many other nations, but what do Nissan’s actions in Mississippi say about the character of the corporation?
Brazilian union leaders, public officials, and activists will do everything they can to help put an end to what is happening in Mississippi, and demand that Nissan treat all workers in all nations with respect.
South Africans Pledge Solidarity Activities on Behalf of Mississippi Nissan Workers
A delegation of Mississippi Nissan workers and community leaders to South Africa received enthusiastic support including demonstrations at a Nissan dealership and at the Japanese embassy. The delegation included Dr. Isiac Jackson, President of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), NAACP Mississippi President Derrick Johnson, and Nissan technician Betty Jones. Jones delivered a passionate speech to 800 unionized Nissan workers, who were deeply offended that their company would prevent U.S. workers from having a union, while cooperating with unions all over the globe. The workers embraced Jones with song and dance, pledging to carry her message to all the people of South Africa. Accompanying the delegation were UAW President Bob King and Danny Glover.
The South Africans organized a march to the Japanese embassy where they staged a demonstration to publicize Nissan’s attacks on worker rights in Mississippi. They also held a rally at a Nissan dealership. They pledged to continue to educate and mobilize the South African public about how Nissan treats U.S. workers as second-class citizens.
The delegation met with Nissan management to ask them to share our concerns with the company’s executives. In addition to meeting with NUMSA, the union representing Nissan workers, they also met with leaders of the COSATU federation, the garment workers’ union, and the soccer players’ union. The delegation also had the opportunity to visit Lilyfields Farms where the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement were arrested.
At a meeting with leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), public officials expressed support and vowed to help in any way they can.
There is a strong bond between the UAW and the unions of South Africa because for many years the UAW was a leader in the fight against the apartheid government. The UAW took many actions to support workers fighting for the right to have unions in South Africa and to have the right to equality and democracy. Now our South African sisters and brothers are vowing to hold Nissan accountable for its disrespect for labor rights in the U.S.
The South African people provide inspiring role models for standing up to injustice, and they will be an important source of support for the effort to make Nissan respect worker rights in Mississippi.
Good Jobs First Report Questions Nissan Accountability
Having been offered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other forms of public assistance, Nissan owes it to the community to respect worker rights. The non-profit think tank, Good Jobs First, presented a report in a press conference sponsored by the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan at the state capitol in Jackson that also questioned whether, given the company’s reliance on low-paid temporary labor, the huge incentives offered to it were a good deal for Mississippi.
Thirty members of Concerned Students for a Better Nissan from across the southeastern U.S. traveled to the Nissan plant in Canton to attempt to meet with company management to ask questions about its intimidation of workers. The students waited in the reception area but Nissan would not agree to meet.
Workers Speak Up On Temp Issue
One of the concerns that has caused many Nissan technicians to want to have a union is the issue of the use of agency contract workers in production. Many long-term temps, or “permatemps,” work side by side with regular employees, but they lack job security and receive substantially lower pay and fewer benefits. The workers want a union to have a voice in gaining equal rights for their co-workers who are not regular Nissan employees. Workers created a t-shirt that says, “I am Kelly, I am Nissan,” referring to Kelly Services which employs many of their co-workers.