Nissan Faces New Set of UAW Complaints Filed as Polls Closed

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By Hassan A. Kanu

Nissan gave the United Auto Workers an inaccurate list of eligible voters and assigned negative ratings to workers who support unionization, the UAW said in a batch of charges filed against the automaker less than an hour before polls closed Aug. 4 in a failed bid to unionize a factory in Canton, Miss.

Nissan intensified its unlawful anti-union messaging and efforts in the days leading up to the actual election, the union alleged. The UAW filed the new unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board as workers were casting their ballots.

A Nissan spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 7 that the company’s communications prior to voting weren’t in any way threatening and were in response to issues raised by employees.

The union also alleged widespread surveillance of workers’ union activities and charged that workers were threatened with a withdrawal of benefits if they voted to be represented by the UAW. Workers were also threatened with termination and told that UAW bargaining with the company would be futile, the union alleged.

Workers at the Canton plant voted 2,244 to 1,307 against representation. The complaints could be an effort by the union to invalidate the results and force a new election.

The NLRB issued a complaint against Nissan on behalf of the UAW about a week before the Aug. 4 election. The complaints filed Aug. 4 will likely be consolidated with the earlier one.

Secret List?

One of the latest complaints alleges that Nissan maintains “an employee data collection and rating system” that rates workers “according to their perceived support for the UAW.” Managers use the system to assign “a negative rating to workers that Nissan management perceives as supportive” of unionization and gives positive ratings to anti-union employees. The company has remained silent when asked to confirm existence of the ratings system, the UAW said.

“The UAW again launched baseless and unsubstantiated allegations against Nissan Canton in a desperate, last-minute attempt to undermine the integrity of the secret ballot voting process,” Brian Brockman, director of North America group communications for Nissan, said. “Nissan respects and values the Canton workforce, and our history reflects that we recognize the employees’ rights to decide for themselves whether or not to have third-party representation.”

A UAW spokesperson wasn’t available to respond to a Bloomberg BNA request for comment Aug. 7.

The Canton facility is one of only three Nissan facilities in the world that aren’t unionized, UAW said in a statement. The other two are in Tennessee. The union has attempted to organize workers at the plant since the early 2000s. The latest failed effort is another indication of the decline of union representation nationally and especially in the historically anti-union Southern U.S.

More than one-fifth of U.S. workers belonged to a union 40 years ago. In 2016, a record-low 10.7 percent belonged to a union, according to Bloomberg BNA’s 2017 Union Membership and Earnings Data Book. From 2015 to 2016 alone, union membership dropped by more than 235,000.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hassan A. Kanu in Washington at hkanu@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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