CANTON, Mississippi — Some union supporters say they hope the United Auto Workers will charter a formal local union at Nissan Motor Co.'s plant, but it remains unclear whether the union will do so.
The workers made the comments Friday during a visit by a group of international trade union leaders whose organizations represent workers at Nissan and its controlling partner Renault S.A. of France.
Jyrki Raina, the general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said representatives would pressure Nissan in their home countries, although he declined to say exactly what union members would do.
"In the globalized world we can't allow Nissan to treat the workers in Mississippi as second-class citizens," said Raina, accompanied by representatives from unions in Japan, France, Spain, Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom. "We want them to have the same rights and representation as at all plants."
IndustriALL, a global federation, says its constituent unions represent more than 150,000 Nissan and Renault employees worldwide. The UAW, an IndustriALL affiliate, is trying to organize Nissan workers and contract employees to seek union representation at the Canton plant, where more than 6,000 people work. No petition for a union election has been filed.
Nissan said again Friday that it hasn't done anything illegal and said its workers are free to unionize under American law.
"No, certainly not. We don't tolerate intimidation at our facilities," said spokesman Justin Saia. "I think we've addressed that over and over again over the last two years."
The UAW set up a local even though it lost an election to represent workers at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in February, and claims it has reached a "consensus" with VW that it will recognize the UAW there without another vote once they sign up enough workers. Volkswagen has said there is no formal agreement.
More recently, it announced it would set up a local at Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
In both cases, working in the UAW's favor are German unions whose representatives sit on their company's board. The UAW has no such advantage with Nissan, although it has repeatedly won support from unions elsewhere.
Morris Mock, a Nissan employee who's one of the most visible union supporters, said after Raina's remarks that he'd welcome a UAW local. He thinks that familiarity would help build support among Nissan workers.
"It gets rid of all the intimidation," he said.
UAW representatives said Friday they weren't authorized to speak to reporters.
The union has also focused on building support in the local community, among civil rights groups, students and performers, all in an attempt to overcome hostility to organized labor in Mississippi's business and political worlds.
They've also appealed to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, asking the U.S. State Department to mediate complaints. Raina said Friday that IndustriALL still awaits a response to its OECD complaint.
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