15 Civil and Human Rights Leaders Urge Nissan to Allow Workers to Organize Through a Free and Fair Election

Categories: Economic Security, Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shin Inouye, 202.869.0398, inouye@civilrights.org

WASHINGTON— Today, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with 14 national civil rights leaders, sent a letter to José Muñoz, chairman of Nissan North America, urging him to allow the workers of their Canton, Mississippi plant to organize a local union through a free and fair election.

The Nissan plant in Canton, and two plants in Tennessee, are the only Nissan plants in the world without unions and meaningful employee representation. The organizations noted that Nissan has engaged in a potentially unlawful anti-union campaign at the Canton facility, where a majority of the workforce is African American. Nissan touts the Altima as the top-selling vehicle in the nation amongst African Americans.

“Labor rights are economic rights, and economic rights are civil rights,” said Vanita Gupta. “The history of the civil rights movement is deeply tied to the labor movement and we are proud to stand with workers who simply want to exercise their right to pursue union representation. There is nothing more fundamental to economic justice then the right of workers to organize.”

The text of the letter is below and is also available here.

Dear Mr. Muñoz:

We, the undersigned supporters of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), write to you in your role overseeing Nissan’s operations in the United States, including the company’s assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, where a majority of the workforce is African American. Our organizations are committed to the protection and advancement of civil and human rights, which includes support for principles of free association and the right of workers to organize.[i]

We are writing to you today regarding the effort of the workers of the Canton, Mississippi plant to organize a local union through a free and fair election.

As you know, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Nissan in Canton has “threatened its employees with termination because of their union activities … interrogated its employees about their union support … [and] threatened its employees with plant closure if they choose the union as their representative.”[ii] We are deeply troubled to learn that since the filing of a July 10 election petition for representation, Nissan has escalated its anti-union campaign and continued its troubling, potentially unlawful pattern of activity at the Nissan plant.

Furthermore, you are aware that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued citations finding that Nissan has not provided “a place of employment which was free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”[iii]

Finally, you know that the Nissan plant in Canton — and two plants in Tennessee — are the only Nissan plants in the world that do not have unions and meaningful employee representation. Union membership boosts wages for working people, which is particularly important for people of color and women, whose wages typically lag behind the wages of white, non-Hispanic men.

As leaders in the U.S. civil rights movement, this situation is of grave concern to us. Each year, Nissan touts the Altima as the top-selling vehicle among African-American consumers. Yet you oppose civil rights at the Canton plant and of this majority African-American workforce. We urge you to accord these workers the same dignity and respect that Nissan workers are provided everywhere else in the world.

With this letter, we urge you to immediately cease unfair labor practices. Further, we urge you to meet with representatives of MAFFAN to discuss conditions for achieving neutrality to ensure that Nissan employees in Canton can vote on a local union in a free and fair election.

We believe that Nissan employees in Canton deserve better — and that workers’ rights are civil and human rights. We look forward to your prompt reply. If you have any questions, please contact Seema Nanda at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at nanda@civilrights.org.

Sincerely,

Vanita Gupta
President and CEO
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

John C. Yang
President and Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Hector Sanchez
Executive Director
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Kristen Clarke
President and Executive Director
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Leon W. Russell
Chairman of the National Board
NAACP

Derrick Johnson
Vice Chairman of the National Board and President of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP
NAACP

Sherrilyn Ifill
President and Director-Counsel
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Rev. Al Sharpton
President
National Action Network

Melanie Campbell
President and CEO
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

Jim Winkler
General Secretary and President
National Council of Churches

Chris Owens
Executive Director
National Employment Law Project

Terri O’Neil
President
National Organization for Women

Debra L. Ness
President
National Partnership for Women & Families

Fatima Goss Graves
President and CEO
National Women’s Law Center

Janet Murguía
President and CEO
UnidosUS

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.

[i] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23, www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

[ii] National Labor Relations Board Consolidated Complaint, 15-CA-145043 et. al., paragraphs 9(a), 9(b), and 9(c), May 31, 2017.

[iii] U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Citation and Notice of Notice of Penalty, Inspection Number 1168036, February 28, 2017.