Following its unsuccessful attempt to try to organize a so-called "transnational" auto manufacturing plant in 2011, the United Auto Workers is crying foul at what it alleges are intimidation efforts by Nissan at its Canton, Mississippi, plant to prevent a union representation vote at the plant, according to a Bloomberg report. The UAW attempted to organize Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee, plant in 1989 and 2001, and failed by a 2 to 1 margin each time.
UAW president Bob King claims Nissan has threatened workers with outright plant closings if the workers vote for union representation. Nissan vigorously denies the allegations and says it follows the "letter and spirit of the law."
The union has reportedly been in contact with Nissan senior management in Japan about the issue, with King saying "there is a lot of integrity with Japanese management in Japan," implying that the company's U.S. management is operating in violation of the principles and philosophy of the parent company.
The once-mighty UAW is facing a drastically smaller membership base than it enjoyed in its heyday in the 1970s and '80s. From the organization's peak in 1979 with 1.5 million members, it decreased to just 380,719 members at the end of 2011. King has publicly said that organization of transnational, or non-U.S. brand plants, is critical to the future of the union.
According to National Labor Relations Board rules, 30 percent of workers at the Canton plant must sign a petition in order to hold a vote for union representation, and a majority of workers must vote in favor of representation to become a UAW plant. Nissan's Canton, Mississippi plant builds the Nissan Titan and Frontier pickups, the NV full-size vans, the Xterra SUV, and the Sentra and Altima sedans.