Mississippi has been a proud right to work state since 1954, as one of eight states with the right to work without union representation written into its constitution. Over the years dozens of other states have joined suit, with every southern state rejected forced unionization of workers. Still, the United Automobile Workers(UAW), a national labor union, is trying desperately to win back over workers in states like Mississippi.
Last week, workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi overwhelmingly rejected years of campaigning from the UAW to receive union representation. In a 2,224 to 1,307 vote, 63 percent of workers chose to represent themselves, continuing a strong direct relationship between the company and its employees.
Considering the membership in unions has dropped to a record low this year, unions like the UAW are frantic to combat the growing right to work trend.
In February of this year, Bloomberg Business explained, “Once largely confined to the conservative South, right-to-work is encroaching on unions’ longtime strongholds in the North and Midwest and… could soon cover a majority of the unionized workforce in the U.S. Following a 47-year lull, six states in five years have passed right-to-work laws.”
The article continues to note that with the election of Republican governors, Kentucky and Missouri both immediately signed right to work laws.
In a panic to gain members, the UAW has already filed a complaint with the NLRB saying the Nissan election was tainted by voter intimidation and unfair labor practices. But as Nissan has responded sharply, “Filing unfair labor practice charges is a common tactic used by unions in an organizing campaign. The UAW is again launching baseless and unsubstantiated allegations against Nissan Canton in a desperate, last-minute attempt to undermine the integrity of the secret ballot voting process.”
And Nissan, and many automakers, have every right to be frustrated.
The UAW has made claims that Nissan pays its workers unfairly and offers unfair bonus offers, but as the New York Times of Aug. 2017 explains, Nissan defends that its wages are significantly higher than the average wage in Mississippi. In addition, Nissan makes contributions to employee retirement accounts in two forms – one matching a portion of what workers contribute, and one independent of their contributions. Nissan has also distributed annual ‘thank you’ bonuses to workers worth $4,000 in each of the last two years. These are blanket bonuses not based on profitability like other automakers. This generosity hardly makes Nissan an unfair place to work.
To counter the UAW’s attacks, Nissan produced an ad campaign featuring an African American single mother who was struggling to pay her bills before landing a job at the plant; Nissan later promoted her and even helped her finished her college degree.
It is unsurprising that the UAW failed in making these baseless claims, considering a 2016 poll found that only 25 percent of current or former union members think union leadership is doing a good job representing workers.
Organized union labor is losing on every level. States are fighting more and more for the right to work, companies are rejecting union intervention, and workers are displeased with false promises and corruption. Mississippi’s rejection of the UAW was not an isolated event, but a final referendum on unions in the south and the message was clear – they are not welcome.