Voting ‘No’ means you’re saying ‘Yes’ to new possibilities at Nissan

August 2, 2017 in News, Top Stories

By Othor Cain,

Editor,

Commentary,

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 10.11.43 PMThis week, full time and regular part-time production and maintenance employees, including leads, at Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant, will take to the polls Aug. 3 and 4 to vote on whether or not to allow the United Auto Workers group to represent them in collective bargaining decisions agreed upon with the company.

The sometimes heated conversations about unionizing in Canton dates back to 2014, came to a boiling point earlier this year when more than a thousand people gathered in a space just over a mile away from the plant and held what was billed as a ‘March on Mississippi Rally.’

This rally drew high profile celebrities, elected officials, national union organizers, plant workers and supporters. It was at this rally that I became more inquisitive than ever before, about “the fuss” over unions. It was here that my quest to learn more accelerated into high-speed.

Under a blazing Mississippi March sun, speaker after speaker, talked about how horrible the conditions of safety at the Nissan plant in Canton were.

Workers told stories of watching a man die as work continued in the plant. Politicians shared different accounts of gaining job security with a union vote. National union organizers admonished the crowd to stay diligent and unified. Civil rights advocates equated the conditions at the plant with modern day slavery.

While most onlookers cheered at every word shared that Saturday in March, I became engulfed with questions. My mind pondered all of the “whys?”

If conditions were that bad at the plant, why do you continue working there?

Why are officials with Nissan against a union?

Why haven’t these talks yielded any results?

Why was it necessary to bring in actor Danny Glover and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders?

Why is there no relationship between plant employees and human resources?

Why isn’t anyone attempting to fix this situation in a manner that’s best for both sides?

While most attendees at the rally were drenching in sweat from the heat, I found myself sweating profusely because I had more questions than answers and I was hell bent on getting answers that day. I was literally soaking in questions.

Unlike most members of the media that covered this rally, I opted out of riding the media bus in an effort to walk ‘among the people,’ whom I thought could deliver some answers to my burning questions. As I made my way through the crowd of walkers, I met people from north Mississippi and a few from out of state.

Along the way, I engaged in mostly one-sided dialogue that centered primarily on intimidation tactics offered by Nissan and safety concerns. None of these conversations were first hand accounts, most of them began with, “based on what I understand or from what I was told.”

I tried to make my way to the front of the crowd because after repeatedly talking to non-Nissan employees, I was told most of the workers were in red shirts and were staged near the front.

To no avail, I couldn’t find an employee that would talk to me. After the rally, I decided to take to FaceBook and the conversation soared to new heights.

This trend of social media talk and non-face-to-face talk (barring staged events), continued for months. Mostly one-sided conversations [from both sides].

I researched. I asked questions. I pleaded for information. I challenged information. I’ve been accused of having formed an alliance. I’ve begged for both sides to talk to me. I’ve been called names other than my birth name. I’ve covered both sides of the story in a very balanced kind of way in this publication. I’ve shared some personal thoughts on social media. And now, I’ve concluded that if I were eligible to vote, how I would vote.

I’ve come to understand that voting is very personal and should be driven from a place of understanding and the greater good.

Voting ‘NO’ to a union at Nissan [at this time] in my opinion, is in the best interest of all parties involved.

Voting ‘NO’ gives everyone an opportunity to talk and start over. It gives room for growth.

I’ve concluded that the problem that exists between those wanting union representation and the executives at Nissan saying no to unions is a communications problem. A fixable communications problem.

Lower level shift supervisors and managers are not adequately trained in crisis communications and do not possess the gift of gab thus causing a great divide. It would behoove Nissan to fix this problem immediately.

Hire more professionally trained shift supervisors or implement a strong component of communications training.

Full time technicians wanting union representation are simply crying out and asking to speak with human resources personnel and not be regulated to a 1-800 number. They simply want to voice their concerns. Rightfully so.

I think the wages, benefits and other compensation packages offered by Nissan are better than most companies in Mississippi. Nissan Canton has been and continues to be good community and corporate partners. They deliver.

I think Mississippi has one of the best workforces than any other state. I think Nissan has tapped into that and understands that.

Fixing the communications divide that exists is an easy fix…both sides must be willing to listen.

Pro union supporters should give Nissan executives an opportunity to get it right, to fix it. This should be done without union representation. This will go a long way toward rebuilding trust, gaining mutual respect and crafting a journey towards success.

The daily stories I read about the downfall of UAW across the country, an organization plagued with problems that have resulted in lawsuits, plant closures and layoffs are enough for me to say vote “NO” Aug 3 and 4.

When you vote “NO,” you’re really saying yes to a whole new world of possibilities at Nissan Canton.

Vote NO!