Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez offered some last-minute encouragement for a unionization effort at a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. — a drive that is expected to end in defeat Friday after a vigorous anti-union campaign.
“Supervisors have called workers off assembly lines for one-on-one interrogations. Anti-union videos are being run on a constant loop in employee break rooms,” Sanders wrote in a column for the Guardian. “Groups of workers have been called into ’roundtable’ meetings to hear management disparage the United Auto Workers. Nissan has been saturating local TV and radio with anti-union propaganda.”
In a video statement, Perez — a former labor secretary — accused Nissan of an “outrageous campaign to intimidate its workers, threatening plant closures, pay cuts and all-out retribution against those who threat to unionize.”
“Get out of the way, Nissan,” Perez said. “Let them make a decision on their own.”
Sanders, U.S. Democrats and a cluster of progressive political organizations have spotlighted the Canton union drive all year: In March, Sanders was at the head of a march on the plant, linking the organizers’ cause to the fight for civil rights.
Since then, Nissan has deployed tactics that have helped blunt or block union drives in other right-to-work states. The company has issued dark warnings of how unionization could cost jobs, and it has enlisted Republican politicians to attack the UAW’s efforts.
“The United Auto Workers and Socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders have come to Mississippi to try and unionize one of the most successful automotive plants in America,” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) wrote last month on Facebook, promoting a video by a Nissan-backed anti-UAW campaign. “This is nothing but a con game to destroy private market success and replace it with government control of free enterprise.”
In TV ads that have run frequently during the vote, Nissan’s promoted the voices of workers who insist that organizing the Nissan plant would empower corrupt union bosses and cost jobs.
“I have worked in a union plant, and it wasn’t all that great,” says one talking head in the latest spot.
“A union is about themselves. It’s about greed,” says another.
And the anti-union Nissan Technicians for Truth and Jobs has warned workers that the UAW is beset by scandal, risking that dues would be squandered on corrupt bosses.
“The UAW is just at the very beginning of an FBI investigation into bribery of UAW officials in which worker training money was spent to pay off at least one officer’s mortgage and buy jewelry, a Ferrari, and two $45,000 gold pens,” they wrote in one Facebook post as the vote was underway. “At a minimum the UAW needs to get its own house in order before it can pretend to come help fix ours.”
The tone of the organizers’ messaging, meanwhile, has become more nervous — and the interventions by Sanders and Perez reflect that.
“This could go down as one of the most vicious, and illegal, anti-union crusades in decades,” Sanders wrote.