SID SALTER: UAW seeks Mississippi pawns in effort to slow decline



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

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  • guest

    The relationship between labor and capital has been tenuous since the dawn of time. Capital needs labor to add value and labor needs earnings in order to live. When the economy is strong there is competition for labor and wages rise – when unemployment is high wages fall. Although these are the basics of the marketplace we tend to confuse the issue by demonizing workers who are only looking out for their interests just as the business is doing. The only reason for a union to exist is because management fails to listen to the employees and add a fair share of the profits earned by all.

    It does not take a person with a Doctorate in Economics that to see that over the past 20 years wages have not kept up with the strong increases in productivity in the US. While our elected leaders have no issue setting up trade agreements to benefit corporations while putting US workers in direct competition with 3rd World labor. This not only harms US workers but our overall economy and our standard of living. The tax structure has been rigged to benefit corporations to set up shop overseas and at the same time make our markets open without strings. We pay subsidies and give tax breaks to large oil corporations to where they pay little or nothing but expect that we provide the world’s biggest military to keep shipping and trade lanes open for them. They barely pay any taxes yet our laws, police and courts protect their property and they ship their product across our highways and land that we bought and own. They collect massive record profits expecting workers and small business to pay for the infrastructure to support them out of our taxes. We lose on both ends – lower wages plus paying the taxes.

    On a political level US workers has not had a fair shake over the last 25 years and they are not competing on a level playing field. We have seen corporate profits shoot through the ceiling while middle class wages shrink. Before Mr. Salter starts to demonize worker advocates he might wish to look at the bigger picture. If you really want to prevent unions I suggest you look at the underlying reasons that have been growing over the last 25+ years.

    It seems funny though – there seems to be a political / social mindset that wants to keep Americans divided. I wonder if they are afraid what we will do if we all start joining together.

    • 1941641

      “I wonder if they are afraid what we will do if we all start joining together”. Yes, you nailed it! Cheap labor is what the auto manufactures came to Mississippi for and the Republican Politicians who pushed the cheap labor enticements benefited from the effort. Tupelo is a good example of the big boys playing the role of anti-unionists. Workers are starting to wise up for their own good.

      They also know that consumers had rather have a union built car as one built by non-union Mississippi cotton pickers and hog sloppers.

      • guest

        Another crock of bull from Sid – did you see the list of goverment agencies he posts that are tax payer funded to look out for workers? The very same list Republicans are currently pushing to defund – heck all the Republican Presidential candidates last elections bragged that they would clse most of those offices.

        The same people who want to restrict goverment regulations demonize the private groups who wish to stand up and protect our rights. When will people wise up – we followed Republican polices and we had the housing crash and the market crash that the tax payers had to bail out. When will America wake up and see that Republicans have basiclly been on the wrong side of every issue the past 30 years.

        • Kevin

          Sid is an overpaid public relations spinmeister at State College and also holds the title of “journalist-in-residence” whatever that means. I bet he makes in six figures for a do-nothing job. Given this pedigree I understand why he has the inability to empathize with the working poor. He’s never worked a day in his life! But more on point, Sid loves to denigrate the federal government, which is probably paying some of his salary through lucrative grants to higher ed.

  • Kevin

    So sid read maybe a few articles about organized labor and the challenges they face today and decided that he has all the answers. His anti-union bias is clearly evident and I’d bet if he were an auto worker or in any kind of manufacturing job he’d be screaming for unionization. But with a fat guy like him who has never worked a day in his life, what can one expect?

  • Thile

    Unions and/or liberals didn’t kill Detroit. The loss of US manufacturing did. As soon as GOP-voting millionaires realized they could make stiff cheaper overseas they abandoned the city and took a buttload of good jobs with them. And many of those same individuals are now gloating about how yoonyuns and librul policies have killed United States based auto manufacturers.