APWU Members Join UAW’s ‘March on Mississippi’
APWU members stood in solidarity at the “March on Mississippi” with Nissan workers attempting to organize a union and join the United Auto Workers (UAW).
Over five thousand union brothers and sisters protested near the Nissan plant in Canton, MS, in support of the plant’s workers fighting to organize the notoriously anti-union plant. After the rally, workers marched two miles to the plant. They delivered a letter to Nissan demanding the right to vote for union representation and for a contract to address wages, require safer working conditions and improve job security – free of fear or intimidation.
“The rally was well organized and attended,” said Mississippi APWU President Sundrenia (Sunny) Thigpen. “The employees from Nissan saw the union support there for them. It was very inspiring. I am so glad we made it a point to be there.”
Fighting for Safe Workplace and a Union
The march comes on the heels of numerous safety violations at the Nissan plant. When Nissan opened the plant in 2003, the Mississippi state government gave the company $1.33 billion in tax breaks, in hopes that it would provide good-paying, full-time jobs to the community. The company has done everything but that.
Workers have been trying to organize at the Canton factory for 13 years, with constant anti-union pressure from the Japanese multi-million dollar company. Only three of Nissan’s 43 plants worldwide are non-union. All three are in the United States, the one in Canton and two in Tennessee.
In late 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged Nissan and a temporary worker agency with violating workers’ rights in Mississippi. In a UAW press release, the union outlines the NLRB’s decision which “found that Nissan unlawfully threatened to close the plant if workers unionize; threatened employees with termination for union activity; and unlawfully interrogated employees. The Labor Board said that Nissan has ‘been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights.’”
“Nissan employees are working under punishing production quotas and unsafe conditions in Canton, and the company does not respect our rights on the job,” said Nissan employee Morris Mock. “We risk our lives every day because Nissan refuses to make the plant safe, and when we speak out to demand basic protections, the company threatens and harasses us. That’s why we’re joining together to demand the good jobs that our community deserves, and we don’t back down until we win the freedom to stand together in a union.”
National and International Solidarity
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Nina Turner (D-OH), Congressman Bernie Thompson (D-MS), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Cornell Brooks and actor-activist Danny Glover were just a few of the attendees. Even a dozen Nissan workers from Brazil were there in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Mississippi.
“What you are fighting for is a righteous fight. It is not too much to ask,” said Turner. “The leadership of Nissan can do the right thing and if not, face the people, not only in Canton, MS but across this nation, because we will not be moved!”
“Powerful corporations like Nissan are the posterchild for America’s rigged economy,” said Glover. “Nissan’s arrival in Canton promised good jobs for the community, but instead the company has committed rampant safety and health violations and denied its workers their basic right to vote for a union free from fear and intimidation.”
“If [Nissan workers] can stand up to a powerful multinational corporation in Canton, Mississippi, workers all over this country will say ‘We can do it too,’” said Sanders. He later stated that “if Mississippi Nissan workers succeed, it will send a powerful message in the south and across the country that working people are prepared to fight for justice and for a fair share of the economic pie.”