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

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.


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

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

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

Rev. Al Sharpton
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
National Organization for Women

Debra L. Ness
National Partnership for Women & Families

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

Janet Murguía
President and CEO

Danny Glover Delivers Special Message To The Attendees At The Labour Start Conference

Workers at the Nissan Plant in Mississippi are still fighting for the same rights Nissan workers in Japan have received for many years? Why? Because Nissan USA is anti-union and are pushing to keep workers down!

To often we hear stories of union’s aggressively organizing.  Or rumors of unions bullying people to join.  The problem is that you hardly ever hear about the stories of the companies who are trying to block the unions from having an election.   At the Nissan plant in Canton Mississippi this is what is going on every day.

This intense anti-union campaign includes making implied threats to close the plant and interrogating and harassing pro-union workers.

Now the workers in Canton Mississippi are getting some help from labor unions around the world, and a very friendly (and very well known) spokesman.  Actor Danny Glover delivers a special message to the people at the international ‘Labour Start’ conference.

For those who do not know, Danny Glover is also very well known for his philanthropic endeavors.   As the son of postal workers he has spent millions of dollars supporting different organizations to promote social and economic justice, access to health care, and education programs in the US and Africa. (1).   Danny was also arrested in 2010 in a labor protest.

“On April 16, 2010 Danny Glover and 11 others were arrested for trespassing at a Service Employees International Union protest at the Sodexo headquarters. SEIU says it was protesting what it calls Sodexo’s unfair and illegal treatment of workers.” (From Wikipedia)

Photo by Rebecca Cook (UAW)

Danny also received one of the highest honors from the United Auto Workers.  Danny was presented with the UAW Walter Reuther Social Justice Award.

“He stood with protesting union members in several states. Wherever there’s a fight for workers’ rights, he has been there. Wherever workers are oppressed, Danny Glover has been there,” King told the more than 1,200 delegates and activists as he presented Glover the award.

Read the full article from the UAW Blog

Now Danny is calling on all the labor unions in the United States and around the world to send this message to Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Toshiyuki Shiga.  He is asking for Nissan to ‘DO BETTER’.  This treatment of US employees would not be allowed in Japanese plants and should not be allowed here.  Mr Shiga has the power to direct the managers of the Nissan Plant in Canton Mississippi to respect the workers and allow them to join the union if they choose.

Take one minute to go to the Labor Start Webpage and sign this letter to Mr Shiga.  Help the United Auto Workers give the workers in Mississippi find their voice. 

Dear Mr. Shiga,

I am writing to respectfully voice my concern regarding anti-union, anti-freedom of association activities including the intimidation and harassment of workers seeking to unionize at your Nissan facility in Canton, Mississippi, USA.

I feel this type of aggressive, anti-union, hostility is a dishonor to Nissan’s well- respected reputation as a global leader, a long-standing member of the UN Global Compact, and a role model for positive labor relations. Nissan Canton local management’s actions are in direct violation of the United Nations Global Compact principles and the ILO standards which Nissan corporate management has committed to abide by.

Nissan’s employees in Canton, Mississippi wish to exercise the same rights that Nissan workers in Japan and elsewhere enjoy. And like the many unionized Nissan workers around the globe, they proudly support their company, but they also want a voice on issues that affect them, their families, and their community.

I urge you to immediately intervene to bring local management in Canton, Mississippi in-line with the values and principles that has established Nissan as a successful and esteemed corporate citizen and allow workers in Mississippi the fundamental right to a fair union election, free of intimidation and fear.

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