Feb 06, 2013 - 1:02pm

The United Auto Workers Union Keeps Reaching

Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division
On February 5, the Detroit News reported that the United Auto Workers (UAW) plans to “step up” a campaign to unionize workers at Nissan’s manufacturing plant in Canton, Mississippi.  Given that Mississippi has a unionization rate of just 4.3 percent, the state might seem an odd target.  Then again, as its membership numbers have plummeted, the UAW has been seeking workers from whom to collect dues just about everywhere possible, and not just in the auto industry.  According to its website, the UAW now represents nurses, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians, and health aides, as well as teaching assistants, casino dealers, and zoo keepers.
The Detroit News quotes Bob King, the UAW’s current President, as saying:  “We’re not going to tolerate the lack of democracy and the lack of human rights and worker rights in Mississippi[.]  That campaign will escalate if there is not a change in behavior, if there is not an agreement on a fair election process — a free and democratic way for workers to decide if they want to be in a union.”
Despite the histrionics about the lack of human rights and democracy, King fails to cite a single example of such abuses.  Indeed, if Nissan were committing human rights violations and keeping workers from participating in our democratic system, it is certain that some entity other than the UAW would be on the case.
In fact, what has the UAW steamed is that Nissan has not agreed to a set of demands put forward by the union regarding how an organizing campaign should take place.  In particular, the UAW would prefer that organizing be done via card check rather than a secret ballot election.  Under card check, organizers would know if a worker supported the union and could apply some gentle "persuasion" to convince them to sign a card backing unionization.  This kind of an “election” might count as democracy in some corners of the world, but it seems hypocritical for the UAW to encourage such practices in Mississippi.
King goes on to state:  “If Nissan’s American management keeps operating the way they are, the global campaign will escalate and it’s going to hurt the whole Nissan brand — just seems crazy to me.”  When he threatens Nissan for “operating the way they are” presumably King means if the company keeps building cars, employing Americans, and making money without the presence of the United Auto Workers.  This may seem “crazy” to King, but if there’s anything delusional about this situation, it starts in the executive suites at UAW headquarters.     
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About the Author

Glenn Spencer Headshot
Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division

Glenn Spencer is senior vice president of the Employment Policy division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.