On the heels of gaining recognition as the official representatives of the skilled trades unit at Volkswagen’s plant in Tennessee, the UAW’s influence continues to expand in the Southeast to Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi, plant.
The National Labor Relations Board filed charges against the Japanese automaker claiming that it implemented a uniform policy in 2014 designed to restrict the free speech of pro-union, the UAW, advocates at the maker’s plant there as well as at two plants in Tennessee.
Kelly Services, which provides contract workers in Canton, was also charged. The crux of the argument in for filing the charges, comes from the language in a question-and-answer document attached to the labor board complaint, which called for most employees to wear company issued pants and shirts.
However, Nissan officials deny the charges and note that employees at other automakers wear uniforms and that the automaker never forced anyone to wear the uniforms, which are provided at no charge to employees.
“Last summer Nissan announced a plant-wide, voluntary uniform program for Nissan U.S. manufacturing sites benchmarked after some of the highest-quality manufacturers in the country and consistent with Nissan worldwide,” said David Reuter, Nissan spokesperson in a statement to TheDetroitBureau.com.
(UAW gains foothold in VW’s Chattanooga plant. For more, Click Here.)
“Nissan’s uniform program is designed to help achieve the highest standards of safety and quality in all our manufacturing facilities. Employees have been able, and will continue to be able, to wear the clothing of their choice as long as it complies with the Nissan manufacturing dress code.”
Pro-union and anti-union workers have been wearing t-shirts in the Canton facility representing their positions.
The UAW, which has been trying to make inroads into the plants for years, filed the complaints leading to the charges. Workers haven’t asked for a vote, but there have been claims that the automaker has intimidated workers who try to secure a vote. The company denies that charge and says its workers are free to unionize. However, Nissan recently settled a charge in 2014 about when a Canton worker could distribute pro-union literature.
(Click Here for details about global union leaders talking with Nissan workers in Mississippi.)
In October 2014, a variety of union leaders travelled to Canton to talk with workers from the plant after claims of substandard working conditions surfaced. The delegation asked to meet with Nissan North America management during the visit. The automaker contended then that the its workers are well treated and that there is no need for a third party, such as the UAW, in the facility.
The charges, in concert with other issues such as the aforementioned complaint, show a definite pattern of anti-union behavior, contends UAW Secretary Treasurer Gary Casteel. He noted that just 6% of the more than 20,000 worker complaints to the labor board in 2014 resulted in charges.
“It’s symbolic in our eyes because it’s so rare,” Casteel said to the Associated Press. “There’s a pattern of misbehavior at Nissan, and of exploitive behavior.”
(To see more about Nissan’s plans to up its U.S. marketshare to 10% by 2017, Click Here.)
The uniform charges were not the only ones filed last week. Additionally, there were claims that a Nissan manager illegally questioned and threatened pro-union workers in Canton on four separate occasions in late 2014 and early 2015. A hearing before an administrative law judge will be held to deal with all the charges.