UAW Won’t Let Go | U.S. Chamber of Commerce

UAW Won’t Let Go

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United Auto Workers logo
Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg.

As this blog recently reported, the United Auto Workers (UAW) suffered a stinging rebuke last week when it lost a representation election at Nissan’s Canton, MS, factory by a vote of 2,244 votes against the union to just 1,307 in favor, with 97 percent of eligible voters having come to the polls.  However, despite its prolonged campaign against Nissan, which has been ongoing for over five years, the UAW seems unwilling to take “no” for an answer. 

Indeed, observers of labor policy know that unions rarely are willing to accept defeat when it comes to organizing drives, and unions like the UAW have set their sights on factories in the South, where several automakers like Nissan have facilities. 

The reason for that phenomenon is that organized labor has been in a precipitous decline for over 60 years, and private sector union membership is only around six percent. The UAW itself is down to just over 400,000 members, compared to around 700,000 less than two decades ago, which represents an existential threat that motivates its aggressive tactics.

As is often the case in union organizing campaigns, the UAW resorted to promoting false statistics and baseless accusations of discrimination, racism, intimidation, workplace violations, and illegal actions, all of which amounted to a smear campaign designed to convince workers to vote for the UAW.  The union’s narrative that it wanted to be the ‘voice of Nissan workers,’ however, did not sway nearly as many Nissan employees as it seemingly anticipated.

Thus, after losing by a 2-1 margin, the UAW is resorting to other familiar tactics, including even more baseless accusations that Nissan engaged in unfair labor practices that could warrant intervention by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which in recent years has been known to overturn representation election results with the flimsiest of rationales. 

The UAW’s Secretary-Treasurer, Gary Casteel, more or less admitted the union’s NLRB ploy, saying “[t]here are things you can do after the election to deal with this stuff,” the “stuff” in question being a resounding defeat at the ballot box.

Despite whatever legal machinations the UAW might seek to employ, though, the reality is that the union simply failed to convince workers at Nissan that unionizing was in their best interests.  Indeed, the election results suggest that the vast majority of Nissan workers are relatively satisfied with their employment situation and are not willing to turn their fate over to a union whose track record is less than stellar.  If nothing else, the results of the election at Nissan are a loud and clear message that the workers in Canton do not want the UAW to represent them.

Rather than fighting the unambiguous results of a fair election through legal maneuvering, the UAW might do well not just to purport to be the voice of Nissan employees, but actually listen to what their votes are saying.