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Nissan: Mississippi radio warns workers they'll go back to 'picking cotton' if they unionise as plant rejects UAW in vote

'You were out there hauling corn and picking cotton and ploughing fields or digging ditches and you are going to go right back to it because the Union is not going to take care of you'

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Saturday 05 August 2017 12:19 BST
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Nissan worker Tony Jacobson shows off a banner he made to show why he opposed the United Auto Workers union's attempts to unionize the automaker's plant
Nissan worker Tony Jacobson shows off a banner he made to show why he opposed the United Auto Workers union's attempts to unionize the automaker's plant (REUTERS)

A Mississippi radio station has reportedly warned Nissan workers they will have to go back to “picking cotton and digging ditches” if they unionise.

Workers at the Canton plant voted nearly two to one against union representation on Friday after a bitter and long-running campaign over workers’ rights in the US south.

Pro-union workers had accused the Nissan plant - which builds Nissan Murano sport utility vehicles, commercial vans, and Titan and Frontier pickup trucks - of having a poor safety record and were unsatisfied after the car maker moved them to a 401(k) defined retirement plan from a traditional pension fund.

But community opposition reached fever pitch in the months leading up to the vote, amid claims some of the anti-union sentiment was being fuelled by an underlying white supremacy sentiment.

“If they get up there at Nissan they will force Nissan out of Mississippi, and you at Nissan better listen because you were out there hauling corn and picking cotton and ploughing fields or digging ditches and you are going to go right back to it because the Union is not going to take care of you,” a man who has not been identified was heard saying on a local radio station.

United Automobile Workers (UAW) had put 10 years of groundwork into the vote Canton plant facility, after two unsuccessful attempts at a Nissan plant in Tennessee.

But the plans fell short in a bitterly contested campaign that the union maintained was a continuation of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Nissan said the tally of votes, which was overseen by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), was 2,244 votes against unionisation to 1,307 in favour.

"With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard," Nissan said in a statement.

"They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company."

The UAW has maintained that Nissan has illegally threatened workers with the closure of their plant or the loss of their jobs if they voted in favor of unionisation, a claim Nissan hotly denies.

That claim has been backed by a number of complaints lodged by the NLRB.

The union said in a statement it is asking the NLRB to proceed with a trial to "stop Nissan's serial commission of unfair labor practices in Mississippi."

The union claims in fresh charges filed with the NLRB that Nissan "conducted repeated captive audience meetings" and played "virtually non-stop anti-union videos" ahead of the vote.

"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.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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