Protesters took to a Nissan dealership in Tennessee last week, asking theJapanese automaker
to allow its employees to unionize at the Canton plant in Mississippi.
The protesters gathered in Nashville (15 miles north of the company's North American headquarters) holding signs that read "Workers' rights are civil rights" and "Hey Nissan. Stop threatening your workers in Mississippi," as passing cars honked in support of their demands."Workers are mistreated inside the Canton plant. We're spoken to disrespectfully by management,"
said Ernest Whitfield, a 13-year Canton employee."As far as the safety conditions, they aren't up to par. It's just a lack of dignity we're having to deal with, and we're told we're ungrateful when we say we want to unionize."
According toUSA Today
, the United Auto Workers union has been trying to unionize workers at the Canton plant for years - a plant that opened in 2003 and currently employs about 5,000 workers. It also produces eight different Nissan models with a capacity of 450,000 vehicles per year.
Nissan however issued a statement, claiming that it does respect itsemployees
and that the allegations are false:
"Nissan's history reflects that we truly value our employees and respect their right to decide who should represent them. Nissan Canton and Smyrna employees enjoy good, stable, safe jobs with some of the highest wages and strongest benefits in Mississippi and Tennessee. The allegations being made by the union against Nissan are completely unfounded," read the statement.
Yet, last year alone the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration cited the Canton plant fortwo violations
. On top of that, Whitfield states that Nissan workers are represented by unions worldwide, except for those in the southern states of the US.
Whitfield also claims that wages at the Canton plant (where an estimated 80% of employees are African-American) range from about $12 per hour to $26 per hour under a tiered system of employment.