An Inside Look at the 14 Year Campaign to Unionize Nissan in Mississippi

(Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

The NLRB has scheduled an election for approximately 3,800 Nissan workers to take place on August 3rd and 4th in Canton, Mississippi. Payday Senior Labor Reporter filed a dispatch for the Guardian looking at the 14-year long campaign to unionize Nissan:

Nissan workers began meeting at a nearby church to discuss low wages and workplace safety in 2005. Sheila Wilson, a Nissan worker, says those early days weren’t easy. Many members were scared, but she remained determined in her desire to push for a union.

“I never had any fear because if I let fear take over, I knew I would never get anything done,” says Wilson, the daughter of veteran civil rights activists. “If I had fear, I would never be where I am today.”

Eventually, after workers formed an organizing committee, the UAW decided to send down organizers to help assist them. At first, it was difficult to persuade workers to get on board, but activists, many of whom were also children of veteran activists, tried to stay positive.

“You have to keep an open mind and stay humbled,” says Wilson. “You can’t be arrogant and you can’t be timid. You have to be ready to let know them know how you felt about it. Let them know that they are not standing by themselves. Let them know that I am going to stick with you to the end.”

Chip Wells, a native of Columbus, Mississippi, has worked at Nissan for 12 years, but it took him nearly seven years to get involved in the campaign. He said that he was always curious about unions, but afraid of getting involved in the effort out of fear of retaliation.

Eventually, a co-worker persuaded him to attend his first union meeting at a nearby church. “I’ll never forget it. I was scared. It was hush-hush on our line – nobody talked [about the union],” says Wells. “I was scared that someone is gonna see me going over there and tell the supervisor, or HR, and I would be marked, dealt with accordingly.”

Go to the Guardian to check out the full story.

Also, please contribute to our fund to travel to Canton, Mississippi to report on the historic union election at Nissan. Spread the word and contribute here.



About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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