By Ayesha K. Mustafaa
Danny Glover came to town Tuesday night, Jan. 29, 2013, to join with the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), the Mississippi Student Justice Alliance (MSJA) along with political, religious and community leaders from across the state.
The objective announced was to “build a growing coalition of Nissan workers and religious, civic, student and community groups to expand Nissan workers’ rights onto a global audience.”
The public meeting was held at Tougaloo College with opening remarks by Tougaloo’s president Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan who welcomed the workers and their supporters to the campus, citing Tougaloo’s historical lead in advancements for civil rights.
International labor representatives in attendance were Vagner Freitas de Moraes, president of CUT (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores)), the largest trade union in Brazil, and Joao Cayres, Internatioinal Affairs Secretary of CUT.
Nissan has unionized plants worldwide – in Japan, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, India, China, Russia, United Kingdom, Mexico and other parts of the United States. Nissan’s alliance partner Renault has unionized plants in France, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Romania, Austria, Turkey and Korea and Argentina.
The questioned echoed throughout the evening: why are workers at the Nissan Canton plant not allowed open elections to get a “yea or nay” vote on whether to unionize or not to unionize?
Workers at the rally claimed intimidation tactics are used to discourage union discussions. The workers presented their platform that Nissan:
1) Agree to the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) Fair Election Principles;
2) Apologize for and retract statements made to workers about closing the plant, losing product and laying off workers if they vote to organize;
3) Agree to give UAW supporters equal time to show videos, hold one-on-one meetings and group meetings with workers for same amount of time the company has spent having anti-union meetings in past year;
4) Agree not to hold meetings on company time unless union supporters have equal time to meet with workers.
According to the rally organizers, MAFFAN “was founded after Congressman Bennie Thompson called on Mississippi leaders to form a committee to stand up for Nissan workers.
Rev. Dr. Isiac Jackson Jr., president of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi, is chairman of MAFFAN. Jackson said, “We’ve told our community about Nissan’s threats and intimidation of workers and how they treat their Mississippi workers like second-class global citizens.”
Glover was passionate on the stage at Tougaloo with the fervor of the former civil rights movement when African Americans’ civil liberties were hanging in the balance. Before coming to Tougaloo College, MAFFAN appeared at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, featuring the actor at a press conference to highlight what has been termed “What is beneath the shine of Nissan.”
The efforts to unionize at Nissan Canton are reverberating throughout the United States, as MAFFAN’s next top will be at the Auto Show in Chicago, Ill, Feb. 7 – 18, and Atlanta, Ga., March 13 – 17. Other stops will include more college campuses.
Tyson Jackson of MSJA said, “We are developing a comprehensive campaign to spread the word about Nissan’s anti-union campaign. Young people are the top consumer target market for Nissan. Through social media and other avenues, we will prove to Nissan that our generation does not support their threatening conduct.” MSJA is comprised of students from Tougaloo College, Jackson State and Hinds Community College and has grown to more than 200 members.
Others at the rally like call meeting were Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP; Kennth Wayne Jones, state senator, Bishop Ronnie Crudup of New Horizon International Church and the church’s Men’s Choir.
Derrick Johnson said, “Your labor has value; your ability to negotiate should be respected as well as your rights to organize or not to organize.” Johnson then asked, “Do you work seven days a week or three days a week? Do you work three hours a day or seven hours a day?”
He added, “The NAACP stands with you for your civil rights. If the workers in Japan have rights to work, so should the workers in Mississippi. We stand with you not because it is the ‘in thing’ to do but because it is the just thing to do. Our people already fought for our rights to negotiate.”
Crudup stated, “This is 2013, not 1930. I have people in my congregation who work at Nissan. And to all workers in Nissan, in the state of Mississippi and in the U.S., this has to stop (intimidation). Nissan is a great international company and this is unbecoming of it to act this way. We are not going to stop; the intimidation must stop and allow free elections.”
MAFFAN president Jackson said, “Mississippi’s greatest resource is its labor workforce. Nissan threatens it will close. Don’t be afraid; Nissan has contracted for 30 years and has at least 20 more years to go.
“When Nissan leaves, its workers will have no retirement, no medical benefits and will leave its resource of people crippled with back problems and knee problems.”
MAFFAN launched its website campaign at www.beneaththeshine.org
COMING NEXT WEEK: the Nissan response