News & Articles

Published on Tuesday, August 8, 2017

UAW Fails to Organize Nissan

The United Auto Workers (UAW) failed to organize another auto manufacturer. They used organizing tactics that included: vilifying management, attempting to coerce employees, and political persuasion (Bernie Sanders wrote union support letters to USA today and the community with the “organize or else” mantra).  This tired method again failed.  Over 60% (2,224) of workers at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi plant voted against unionization.

This being the third attempt made by the UAW at organizing a Nissan plant (two elections at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant previously failed), what do workers see that the union and its organizers refuse to see? Union opponents respond simply, “We know we didn’t need it.” Workers feel more confident dealing directly with Nissan management than having an outside agent speaking for them.

That’s not what union organizers take from this election though. The UAW immediately filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging unfair labor practices during the election. Claiming a “vicious campaign”, “intense scare tactics”, “misinformation and intimidation and threats”.

Specifically, the union pointed to what they saw as illegal or unfair labor practices such as mandatory supervisory meetings where the company stated benefits would be lost if they voted union, supervisors allegedly stating union representation was futile, and one employee alleges she was told she would lose her job if the UAW won. In addition, one temporary worker supposedly lost their job in retaliation for union activity. These alleged incidents are at a plant with over 6,000 workers.

In reality, the unions simply fail to understand that workers generally do not value what unions are selling. UAW union dues are 2.5 hours of workers’ wage rate each month.

And in that reality, there lies one of the crux’s to Labor’s organizing problems. Nissan workers earn up to $26/hr., plus benefits. Why should a worker pay union dues when they are making a very competitive rate without them? Kristen Dzicek, Director of the Industry, Labor and Economic Group at the Center for Automotive Research points out that wages are not typically what makes or breaks union elections. What typically does? Workers typically turn to unions when they believe they are “being treated unfairly at work.”

An outside third party becomes simply irrelevant to workers that are paid fairly, spoken to, and listened to. Nissan is generally believed to keep their eye on these important aspects of employment.

As we approach another Labor Day filled with pro-union rhetoric, union free employers will continue to keep their eyes on the employee relation’s “ball” by maintaining fair pay practices, implementing positive employee communications practices, and better educating supervisors and managers about the importance of listening and responding to worker concerns. With that in place, workers will save a little pay that might have been lost to union dues and stay focused on what matters to them – instead of Big Labor.  

ASE provides employer resources to pay competitively, train supervisors and managers, and tap into what workers are concerned about so that management can stay ahead of any issues union organizers might grab onto to. As an employer association, we stand on the side of management.


Sources: UAW defeated in bid to organize Nissan workers in South. The Detroit News 8/4/2017; Nissan Mississippi workers vote heavily against unionization, Reuters 8/5/2017. Nissan’s “Vicious” Campaign Crushed Union Vote, NLRB Told. Law 360 7/7/2017

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