Nissan Really Doesn't Want Workers to Unionize at Its Mississippi Factory

The years-long fight to unionize a Nissan factory in Canton, Mississippi, will come to a head later this week, with workers set to cast votes on joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.


Pro-union workers are up against the odds. Nissan is actively opposing the unionization drive. According to UAW and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Canton plant supervisors are allegedly showing threatening presentations, wearing shirts that urge "vote no," and preventing workers from distributing pro-union literature outside the factory. Last week, the NLRB filed a complaint accusing Nissan of illegally threatening the closure of the plant in the event of unionization.

"Nissan is running one of the nastiest anti-union campaigns in the modern history of the American labor movement," Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, said in a press release.

"The company’s investors as well as socially conscious policymakers in the U.S. and around the world need to understand what’s happening in Mississippi and join local civil-rights leaders in calling for a halt to Nissan’s illegal and unethical behavior."

Nissan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Anti-union sentiment runs deep in the South. Mississippi is particularly hostile to unions, which has been part of the state's appeal to companies like Nissan, The New York Times reported.

Over the past few years, however, UWA has aggressively campaigned for unionization at the Nissan factory, and it's hopeful that this week's vote will bring in thousands of new members. UWA has indicated that racial dynamics may be a factor in the company's staunch resistance to unionization.

In recent statements, the organization alleged that Nissan has a pattern of violating labor rights of black workers, who account for more than half of the factory's staff, noting that the Mississippi factory is one of just three company-wide that isn't unionized. One worker said it's hypocritical for Nissan to promote itself as a socially conscious company—and to target black consumers—when, "behind the scenes, the company is violating the labor rights of African-American workers who make those cars."

Nissan has denied these allegations and said that it's opposition to the UWA unionization was in its employees' best interest. Workers at the plant already make more than the average wage ($16.70 per hour) for an auto factory worker in Mississippi and the company offers competitive benefits, a Nissan spokesperson said in a statement.

The Mississippi plant has been an economic boon for the rural community, creating over 6,000 jobs. UAW officials reject the idea that union representation would have negative consequences for workers, saying it's interested in addressing complaints about labor violations, including those related to workplace health and safety.