Williams ‘confident’ UAW can win vote at Nissan plant

on Jul22

Dennis Williams: “We always take lessons learned. I always learned more from my losses than my wins.” Photo credit: Michael Wayland

UPDATED: 7/20/17 3:38 pm ET – adds Nissan response

DETROIT — UAW President Dennis Williams said he feels “very strongly” that Nissan workers in Canton, Miss., will vote early next month in favor of union representation.

“We went in there very confident we had a strong group of people in the bargaining unit that wanted a union,” he told journalists during a roundtable discussion Thursday at the union’s headquarters in Detroit. “They want a voice.”

Williams said ultimately it’s all up to the workers, and if they can get over their “fears,” including those about repercussions from the company.

Nissan has said that it does not believe UAW representation “is in the best interest” of the plant, which the UAW estimates has 3,500-3,800 production and skilled trades workers eligible to be part of a local bargaining unit.

The Japanese automaker has adamantly denied any intimidation, which Williams compared to “having a gun to your head” when voting in an election.

“Those allegations are absolutely false,” Rodney Francis, HR director at the plant, told Automotive News during a phone interview following the roundtable. “We’re not intimidating any of our workers down here. We’re simply supplying them with information.”

The plant employs more than 6,400 hourly and salaried workers, including temporary workers whom are not allowed to cast ballots in the upcoming vote.

Historic win? 

If the UAW gains representation, it would be a historic win for Williams and the union, which has failed to gain support for full representation at an assembly plant in the South owned by a transplant automaker.

The two-day vote is scheduled Aug. 3-4. It comes three years after the UAW failed to gain enough votes to represent workers at Volkswagen AG’s plant in Chattanooga.

The union, Williams said, learned from the failed VW representation vote, which did include the UAW gaining representation of some skilled trade workers.

“We always take lessons learned,” Williams said. “I always learned more from my losses than my wins.”

VW situation

Although the union failed to gain full representation in 2014 in Chattanooga, a group around 165 skilled trades workers voted to become the first members of UAW Local 42 in 2015. However, the union has yet to persuade the company to come to the bargaining table.

The UAW remains in litigation with VW over the vote, but Williams said the company has promised to “not appeal any further.”

Williams said the VW vote was “a bit different” from the upcoming Nissan election, as politicians, not the company, were the main drivers behind anti-union campaigning.

Nissan’s Francis said the company remains committed to its workers, and just wants them to “make an informed vote.”

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