As noted in prior columns on this topic, the United Auto Workers is digging in for a global battle for the survival of the declining union and the epicenter of the fight is Canton’s Nissan plant.
The New York Times this week produced a sweeping account of the UAW’s strategies in Mississippi and linked those strategies to a global effort to force Nissan to knuckle under to union organizers. The Times outlined an unprecedented union organization push that will attempt to rely on global leverage against Nissan as well as the interjection of “civil rights” into the debate.
“The union has also helped create a group of students and community and religious leaders, the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, which includes the NAACP,” according to the newspaper. “The alliance often uses the slogan, ‘Labor Rights Are Civil Rights.’”
If a labor union is looking for a backdrop from which to try to establish linkage between civil rights and union rights, Mississippi’s history offers optics. But the less than subtle attempt to interject racial overtones into a unionization fight is reprehensible.
The average wage at Nissan is $23.22 an hour or $48,297 per year. And that’s in a state with a median household income of a lowest-in-the-nation $37,095. But if the UAW is to be successful, they must convince workers not to think about employment opportunities in Canton prior to Nissan, but about employment opportunities thousands of miles away from Canton.
Reports of UAW activities in Brazil, France and Japan are all linked to the push to unionize the Nissan plant in Canton.
Two prior UAW efforts to unionize the Canton plant have failed. Nissan workers in Smyrna, Tenn., rejected a union vote at that facility in 2001. And while the UAW’s effort to break Mississippi’s “right to work” state status with a successful unionization push at the Nissan plant in Canton is understandable from the perspective of perpetuating the existence of the UAW, it’s less clear the benefit to the plant’s workers.
The UAW pitch is predictable, despite the fact that the federal government now performs at taxpayer expense most of the functions that made unions important over the last century. How are workers protected in the United States? Let me count the ways.
Worried about unsafe working conditions? There’s OSHA. Worried about interference with union organizing efforts? There’s the National Labor Relations Board. Concerned about injuries on the job? There’s Worker’s Compensation and the courts. Is your job causing health and family concerns? There’s the Family Medical Leave Act. What about the disabled? There’s the Americans With Disabilities Act. Are you fearful about the exploitation of child labor? There’s the Department of Labor. Do you have wage and hour violations? Again, there’s the Dept. of Labor. Are you the victim of job discrimination? Thank goodness for the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
All those protections are important and necessary. And, yes, organized labor in the long run played an important role in winning some of those protections. But in recent years, unions have become far less about protecting workers and far more about protecting the political relationship between the union bosses and the politicians who protect them on Capitol Hill.
To survive, the UAW must abandon the ruins of old Detroit and infiltrate the foreign-owned automakers in “Detroit South.” That’s why they seek to make Nissan in Mississippi the first domino to fall. Those who shriek about the relationship between Big Business and the GOP tend to get lockjaw when it’s time to talk about the relationship between the Democrats and the union bosses.
The UAW wants to infiltrate Detroit South and suck it dry just like they did in old Detroit. Getting their hooks into the foreign auto manufacturers in the Deep South is the goal, not protecting workers.
What union infiltration of the Mississippi auto manufacturing industry will ultimately do is put Mississippi workers who have good jobs at good wages out of work all in the name of pumping new union dues into the dying carcass of the national organized labor hierarchy.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at (601) 507-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.