Supporters of the United Auto Workers say they’re not giving up their fight to unionize a Nissan auto assembly plant in Mississippi after a stinging defeat, even as UAW opponents say Friday’s loss proves workers don’t want the union.
More than 62 percent of workers voting in a two-day election at Nissan Motor Co.’s Canton plant voted against the UAW, with 2,244 ballots against the union according to the National Labor Relations Board. Voting for union representation were 1,307 workers, or 38 percent.
“They know we didn’t need it,” said Nissan worker Kim Barber, an outspoken union opponent who said she was celebrating Friday’s result. “We didn’t need outside interference coming into our plant.”
Amid tears at a union office near the plant just north of Jackson, UAW supporters voiced defiance, with some calling for the election to be rerun after the minimum six-month wait. The union filed charges moments before the polls closed Friday night making new allegations that Nissan had broken federal labor law and intimidated workers into voting “no.” If the labor board agrees, it could order a new election at the plant.
“It hurts,” said union supporter Phillip White. “We ran against a machine; we ran against a monster; we ran against all the lies.”
The UAW has never fully organized an international automaker in the traditionally anti-union South, although it did persuade some maintenance workers to join at a Volkswagen AG plant in Tennessee. The UAW’s lack of influence among southern autoworkers has reduced its bargaining power when Detroit automakers lose market share and close plants. After pouring resources into the organizing drive at Nissan, this loss could leave UAW leaders with tough decisions.
Odds of success
“The result of the election was a setback for these workers, the UAW and working Americans everywhere, but in no way should it be considered a defeat,” UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement.
Kristen Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research said that although the UAW was the underdog, odds were unlikely to improve soon, as President Donald Trump’s appointees take over the National Labor Relations Board. A corruption scandal involving union employees allegedly taking bribes from a former Fiat Chrysler executive also threatened to spread.