That Nissan UAW vote was kind of a big deal

This is starting to turn into a repeating pattern, at least in the south and most right-to-work states. When a business gets up and running, creating a significant number of manufacturing jobs, the unions begin moving in and attempting to force votes to convert the plants into union shops even if the workers seem to be quite content with the working conditions and compensation they’ve negotiated with management. That happened once again at the Nissan plant in Mississippi, where a bitterly fought campaign led to a unionization vote this past week. And once again the workers said “no thank you” to the union label by a better than two to one margin. (Washington Examiner)

In a closely watched vote, Nissan workers at a Canton, Miss., plant rejected the United Auto Workers by a 2-to-1 margin in an organizing vote concluded late Friday, dealing a major blow to the union’s hopes to make inroads in the south. The vote was 2,244 to 1,307.

“With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard. They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company. Our expectation is that the UAW will respect and abide by their decision and cease their efforts to divide our Nissan family. Now that the election is complete, Nissan will focus on bringing all employees back together as one team, building great vehicles and writing our next chapter in Mississippi,” the company’s North American branch said in a statement.

UAW blamed company opposition for the defeat. “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,” said UAW President Dennis Williams.

The United Auto Workers have been experiencing a period of decline for a while now. They had roughly 700K members in 2001 and now they’re barely above 400K, and Mississippi obviously won’t be boosting their numbers any time soon. And this isn’t their first time coming up significantly short in right-to-work states either. Back in 2014 I was spending quite a bit of time down in Chattanooga and we covered the UAW’s failed attempt to push through unionization at VW. (That victory was somewhat tempered the following year when one hundred or so skilled machine / robot maintenance workers voted to unionize their subset of the labor force under the UAW.)

The experience of the UAW in Chattanooga was similar to what we saw last week, and in some ways perhaps even worse. Unlike Nissan, VW never really got involved in the fight. They were willing to either maintain an internal employee organization such as is common in Europe or bring in a union. They didn’t particularly care, so long as they had somebody to represent the workers and negotiate with them. In that case it was largely the workers themselves and outside representatives from the state who launched an informational campaign aimed at keeping VW in the state and hopefully shutting the union out.

Returning to the present day in Mississippi, the UAW president claimed that Nissan, “ran a vicious campaign against its own workforce that was comprised of intense scare tactics, misinformation, and intimidation.” I suppose that might be one way to put it. Another would be to say that the company simply set out the basic realities of the world for the workers to consider. If they unionized and the UAW came in and immediately began demanding the same levels of vastly inflated wages and retirement benefits which wound up sinking the industry in Detroit, then Nissan would wind up falling below the profitability line. And when that happens, they begin laying people off and start considering options such as giving up on America and moving their facilities to Mexico (again). Having a solid, long-term job with decent benefits (even if it doesn’t include a golden parachute) probably sounds like a much better option than sitting on the unemployment line because your union ran the business out of town.

Companies are moving more and more to right-to-work states. And the workers in those areas are getting solid, long term jobs rather than fighting over slots for the night shift at the local convenience store. Perhaps there’s hope for American manufacturing after all.

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