The state of Mississippi has found itself caught up in the increasingly contentious dispute between Nissan and the United Autoworkers Union.
The state improperly offered millions in aid to entice Nissan to build its big factory in Canton, Miss., while the maker is allegedly failing to meet the promises it made in return for a reported $1.33 billion in aid, according to a report by a pro-union, Washington-based think tank.
Nissan and its supporters, however, dispute that claim as just another frantic effort by the UAW to prop up a faltering drive to organize the Canton plant’s workers. Despite an organizing drive that has the backing of Southern civil rights groups, the union has not called for an election, suggesting it is having a tougher go than it expected.
Stacey Pickering, Mississippi state auditor, defended the state’s aid to Nissan in a newspaper column, “Nissan was required to maintain 3,000 new direct jobs at the project site until 2021. As of our last audit in December, 2011, Nissan employed over 4,100 employees, far exceeding the mandated requirements.”
Pickering noted the original Canton project was broken into two phases, and contends that Nissan lived up to the requirements set for both.
“The numbers do not lie. Beyond the jobs Nissan created, there is more disposable income that generates sales tax, property tax from homeowners, and many other ancillary benefits that would not have otherwise existed. They have produced more than 2 million vehicles and nearly $2 billion in payroll,” Pickering added.
Taking shot at the union’s organizing bid and its use of a “Hollywood celebrity,” star Danny Glover, the Mississippi state auditor concluded that the Japanese maker, “has lived up to all of the promises they agreed to,” while also helping win over other auto-related manufacturers, including Toyota and Yokohama Tire.
The sharp retort was triggered by a report from Good Jobs First, a Washington D.C. non-profit that studies corporate accountability and economic development subsidies. The think-tank reported recently that Nissan has received more than $1.33 billion in subsidies from state and local governments in Mississippi, but that the benefits have fallen short of what the automaker had promised.
The study’s findings were promoted by community groups in Mississippi, which support the United Auto Workers’ efforts to organize workers at the Canton plant.
“Nissan employs a high percentage of temporary workers who for years receive less pay, limited benefits and have no job security. Mississippi expected an average wage of $45,309 for Nissan workers. Temporary workers in the plant make nowhere near this wage,” charged the Mississippi Alliance For Fairness at Nissan, which presented the report at a press conference on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson.
The UAW turned to the religious, community and civil rights groups last year for assistance after its previous efforts to organize Canton workers had been frustrated. Between 75% and 80% of the workers at the plant are African-American and the union has hoped it could win them over with the assistance of its old allies from Mississippi’s civil rights community.
With the support of the new study, the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan claims the maker has not created enough of the kinds of jobs that the community expected since the plant opened 10 years ago.
(Click Here to read about Danny Glover’s role protesting non-union jobs at Nissan.)
The assistance from Mississippi taxpayers equates to as much as $290,000 per job at Canton over the life of the subsidies, the new study by Good Jobs First said.
Another key issue is that hundreds of employees at the Canton plant are temporary workers hired by an outside agency to staff the plant’s second shift, which was added last year.
(UAW closing in on organizing vote at Chattanooga, Tenn. plant. Click Here for details.)
“Nissan must end its intimidation campaign, allow workers to decide freely whether to have a union and make all Nissan temporary workers permanent employees,” supporters of the UAW said.
Nissan spokesman Justin Saia countered that Canton generates a $200 million annual payroll and that “our more than 5,000 on site employees spend much of that with local businesses in the Metro Jackson area and throughout the state of Mississippi.”
Nissan’s total investment in the Canton plant to date is more than $2 billion, Saia emphasized.