Nissan manufacturing workers continue 13 year battle to build a union in Mississippi
SWA leaders got to meet with Nissan workers in Mississippi at the Dec. 9-11 Southern Human Rights Organizing Conference. They also joined a solidarity rally in front of their plant. They are planning for a national solidarity day of action on Jan 28. If you are interested in organizing a solidarity rally in your city, contact email@example.com
A growing number of workers at the Nissan car manufacturing plant in Canton, Mississippi desire union representation due to poor working conditions, low wages, and widespread safety issues that have lead to the death of two workers in recent years. By some estimates, as many as 40 percent of the 5,000 workers at the Mississippi plant have been hired as temporary employees who work for years earning significantly lower wages and benefits than regular employees. An overwhelming majority of temporary employees are African-American.
Workers at the plant have been organizing their union, including building broad community support for over 13 years — and they aren’t backing down now.
“We have bona fide civil rights concerns when it comes to Renault-Nissan and its poor treatment of workers in Canton,” said Derrick Johnson, state president of the Mississippi NAACP.
When automakers receive large tax incentives from state and local governments to locate their facilities there, like the $363 million Nissan received for its Canton, MS, plant, they should be more engaged in treating workers fairly to create stronger communities for their workforce.
The workers have been traveling the world to put pressure on Nissan to do-the-right thing. Most recently, a few workers traveled to France to meet with the government there, who owns 20% of shares of Renault-Nissan, which in turn is the largest shareholder of Nissan. In June, 35 French and European policymakers signed a letter asking Nissan to adopt a position of neutrality toward union organizing efforts in Canton.
“Workers’ rights are, in fact, human rights. When I return to France, I will be informing the French government and the French President Hollande about the anti-union practices in Canton, ” stated Honorable Christian Hutin, member of the French National Assembly. Renault-Nissan declined to meet with Hutin, who recently visited Mississippi on a fact-finding mission.
UE local 150 members shared our experience with organizing the Carolina Auto Aerospace and Machine Workers Union at the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine plant build a pre-majority union for 20 years. Even if the workers don’t win the upcoming union election, they should continue to maintain their union presence. Workers must always fight to have self-organization!
Winter 2017 Newsletter
During Election rush, Workers School lifts up Southern organizing
During Election rush, Workers School lifts up Southern organizing
By Dante Strobino
Workers from 12 Southern cities, several workplaces and a number of unions gathered here for the Southern Workers School over the Aug. 5-7 weekend to continue their study of the political economy of the Southern region of the U.S. and develop organizing skills. Attendees also participated in a strategy session about “How might the 2016 elections open opportunities for organizing Southern workers?”
The Southern Workers Assembly has been building the Southern Workers School as an important institution to train and develop rank-and-file workers to organize the South. The school has held eight sessions since March, tackling issues such as the role of slavery in shaping the political economy of the U.S. South, lessons from the history of past organizing campaigns such as Operation Dixie and the Civil Rights movement, fighting women’s oppression in the workplace, and building campaigns at work for more protections for LGBTQ people after passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which targets trans people. The school also offered basic organizing skills such as learning how to map your workplace and tips for one-on-one discussions with co-workers.
“The school is really important for us to continue to draw in Southern workers to educate ourselves and to continue to broaden out this fighting movement at the workplace,” stated Leonard Riley, leader of International Association of Longshoremen Local 1422 and the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment in Charleston, S.C.
The latest school session occurred amid a massive year-long media onslaught about the capitalist presidential elections, making workers feel like almost nothing else is going on in the world or at their workplaces. While workers are confronted with a choice between voting for an outright racist billionaire who hates workers like Donald Trump, or giving lukewarm support for Hillary Clinton, the school sought to elevate workers’ roles in building a social justice union movement. After all, it is the class struggle that is the motive force that changes history, not rich politicians.
The class struggle expands
The movements for Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 have rocked this country over the last few years and totally changed the expectations of the masses. They are forcing the politicians to change their political programs in an attempt to hold onto their fading support base. Yet, the Bernie Sanders campaign,which helped expose Wall Street’s profits and greed along with the growing economic inequality in this country garnered huge support from workers, collecting over 12 million votes in the primary. But even Sanders, who has a long history of supporting unions, was pushed by the grassroots movement in the streets, and workers organizing at the workplaces.
“These politicians don’t care about low-wage workers or Black people. They just want our votes,” stated Rolanda McMillan, a McDonald’s worker from Richmond and leader of Raise Up. “That’s why we must organize our people and build power to challenge them and the corporations.”
Delegations participating in the school included ILA dockworkers from Charleston, S.C.; fast food workers and members of Raise Up from several cities, including Richmond, Durham and Biscoe; state and city workers belonging to the United Electrical Workers (UE) from three states, including Local 150 from North Carolina, Local 160 from Virginia and Local 170 from West Virginia; the National Nurses Union/National Nurses Organizing Committee leadership from El Paso, Atlanta and Tampa; members of the Communication Workers from Virginia, some who victoriously struck Verizon and won a better contract and others who are currently voting on an AT&T contract; day laborers from New York City who belong to Jornaleros Unidos; and members of the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism in North Carolina. Several other workers who are not yet organized but are helping to form organizing committees came from plants and workplaces across the South.
Leaving the school, workers identified roughly 50 workplaces in their areas where they will begin leafleting as part of a massive agitation campaign to draw in more workers to the Southern Workers Assembly, build organizing committees and plant seeds for future union organizing campaigns.
SWA Affiliates Across US South Support Striking Verizon Workers!
This week members of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are heading into their second month on strike against the greedy Verizon corporation. These courageous 40,000 union members are on strike from Virginia to Massachusetts.
In an outrageous move, on May 1 (May Day), Verizon cut off health benefits for active members on strike [and we have to get the info about the retirees]. Verizon has also pressured judges to issue injunctions in Virginia. The members are doing their part for the entire working class by standing strong on the picket lines for all workers. They are fighting for respect, job security, living wages and benefits, and a dignified retirement.
It is urgent we increase our support to assist them right now.
How you can help:
- Unions, student, community, faith-based organizations and individuals can join CWA-IBEW pickets if there is one near you. Or organize one at a corporate Verizon wireless store near you. [Link here]
- Make a much needed donation to the strike fund and share how supporters can contribute: [Link here]
- Pass solidarity resolutions in your organization and take up collections for the strike fund
- Build awareness and solidarity: http://standuptoverizon.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/CWAUnion
The fight being waged by CWA-IBEW is our fight too. Solidarity Forever!
Charlotte, NC – Organized by Raise Up for $15 – May 6
Durham, NC – May Day Rally with CWA local 2204 Guests from VA – May 2
Roanoke, VA – Strike lines (see banner above!)
Attended by Virginia Educator Association (NEA) members – May 9
REPEAL NORTH CAROLINA HOUSE BILL 2!
Tell the General Assembly to stop their divisive tactics, taking away local Citizens Power & our self-determination!
Workers Must Organize at their Workplaces to Expand Protections Against Discrimination!
Workers and our communities must have the international recognized human rights and freedom to Peoples Power! The power to address our human rights to public accommodations, living wages, terms of employment and cultural, social, and economic standards. The Human Right to exercise our power, work without discrimination and to speak in our own voice and organizing our own power in our unions and organizations was stripped away with House Bill2!
In late March, the NC General Assembly quickly called a special session and in about 8 hours (with out any public debate) quickly passed House Bill 2/ “HB2”. Tactically, they used this law to demean and scapegoat the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered and Queer (LGBTQ) community. They used this attack to create division among the working class as they took away “Peoples Power” in local cities, towns and counties. They took away working peoples power to address workers’ rights, wages, sick time, benefits and our local communities rights to self-determination to fight discrimination and address our local demands.
Under the North Carolina Constitution, the legislature does have the authority to determine what local governments can and cannot do. For decades, however, the General Assembly has provided our municipal and county governments freedom to regulate local public institutions and private businesses in a limited way. This includes local governments addressing discrimination and boosting the wages of their own city/county employees as well as public contractors. This also included the right to put local laws in place to support Minority/Women Businesses in their struggle to get local city/county government contracts that put us to work on public jobs.
The City of Charlotte recently used this authority to pass an important ordinance preventing public and private discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The extremist right conservative NC State Legislators is taking these rights away from our communities.
Their new law takes various powers away from local communities:
- Ban local governments from prohibiting businesses from engaging in any type of discrimination. …. effectively overturned Charlotte’s new ordinance, permit private businesses to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and transgendered residents, and prevent local communities from regulating race, national origin, sex, religion and other types of discrimination by private businesses.
- Enacts sweeping new restrictions on the ability of governments to protect workers rights and raise wages. Public contracts with private businesses have been an important tool used by local governments to raise wages and working conditions and ensure basic fair job standards in their community. In an unprecedented overreach, their new bill prohibits local governments from considering wages, benefits, sick leave and basic job standards when awarding public contracts—in effect telling local governments what they can and can’t do with their own money.
- Eliminate state law remedies for employees who are fired based on their race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap.
THIS LAW means North Carolina will join Mississippi as the only state without any state law protecting private sector employees from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age or disability. The bill eliminates any employee’s private right of action to sue an employer who fires him or her for a discriminatory reason in State Courts.
This law continues to take Peoples Power from us. They attacked our VOTING RIGHTS, MEDICAID,UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS MEDICAL, OUR UNIONS’ PAYROLL DEDUCTION, HEALTH INSURANCE,LOCAL RIGHT TO PROVIDE LOCAL SAFE CLEAN WATER, AND NOW WORKERS RIGHTS!!!l North Carolina’s workers and UNIONS MUST READ, EDUCATE AND MOBILIZE WORKERS IN OUR UNIONS, COMMUNITIES AND CHURCHS/ HOUSES OF WORKSHIP AND SCHOOLS ABOUT THIS RECENT “HB2” AS DIVISIVE AND TAKING AWAY “PEOPLES POWER” ! It gives even greater power to businesses to ATTACK AND discriminate against workers and weakens the ability of local CITIZENS /governments to raise wages and fair labor standards AND PROTECT THE HUMAN RIGTS OF ALL CITIZENS IN OUR LOCAL COMMUNITIES!—Your voice and all workers in our community must be heard now.
Take Action! Tell the General Assembly to stop THEIR DIVISIVE ATTACKS ON OUR FELLOW RESIDENTS and taking away our power from workers and all local communities’
Take Action! Get a copy of your workplace policy, handbook or union contract clause regarding workplace discrimination. We are encouraging workers to fight their employers to expand this language to include ALL forms of discrimination including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Download this flier and discuss with your co-workers today!
Southern Workers Assembly pledges solidarity with Verizon workers strike
The Southern Workers’ School, a project of the Southern Workers Assembly in session tonight April 12, 2016 composed of workplace union activists from 8 Southern states pledges its solidarity and support to the 40,000 sisters and brothers about to go on strike for a just contract against Verizon organized by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions from Virginia through Pennsylvania.
WE reaffirm the absolute necessity for collective bargaining rights enforced by the right to strike for Verizon workers and for all workers regardless of employment status.
WE affirm the necessity for Verizon to continue and improve employee benefits and wages particularly in these times of rising income inequality and working class insecurity.
WE point out that continual downward pressures by corporations on working class wages and benefits is not only bad for working people and our families but also for our communities and our world.
WE will take support action in the southern states where the strike will take place and where the member organizations involved in the Southern Workers’ School exist.
- Southern Workers Assembly
- UE local 150, NC Public Service Workers Union
- National Nurses Organizing Committee – Florida
- National Nurses Organizing Committee – Texas
- Black Workers For Justice
- Southern Workers Organizing Committee/Raise Up for $15
- Appalachian Workers Alliance
- Boston School Bus Drivers Union, USW local 8751
- Muslims for Social Justice
- Organize2020 Caucus of NC Association of Educators
- Saladin Muhammad, UE* Retired/ Black Workers for Justice*, Rocky Mount, NC
- Larsene Taylor, President, UE Local 150/BWFJ*, Goldsboro, NC
- Angaza Laughinghouse, Vice President, UE local 150, NC Public Service Workers Union, Raleigh, NC
- Justin Flores, Vice President, Farm Labor Organizing Committee*, Dudley, NC
- Ed Bruno, Retired Southern Regional Director National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses Union*, Tampa, FL
- Peter Knowlton, General President, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)*, Pittsburgh, PA
- Chavel Lopez, Southwest Workers Union*, San Antonio, TX
- Deborah Casey, Norton Area Vice President, CWA local 2204*, Roanoke, VA
- Sandra Wakefield, National Nurses United/NNOC-TX, El Paso, TX
- Charles Brave, Vice President, SC AFL-CIO*, ILA local 1422*, Charleston, SC
- Leonard Riley, ILA local 1422*, Charleston, SC
- Shafeah M’Balia, Black Workers for Justice*, Savannah, GA
- Lutalo Tyehimba, ILA local 333*/Ujima People’s Progress Party*, Baltimore, MD
- Martha Grevatt, Civil and Human Rights Committee, UAW Local 869*, Detroit, MI
- Donna Dewitt Retired, CWA local 3719*, Orangeburg, SC
- Erin McKee President, SC AFL-CIO*, Columbia, SC
- Freddie Coakley, ILA local 1422*, Charleston, SC
- Deb Gornall, President, Eastern Region UE*, Erie, PA
- April Lofton-Beach, UE local 160*, Petersburg, VA
- Vera Nedrick-Jones UE local 160 VA Public Service Workers Union*, Petersburg, VA
- Abdul Burnette, Raise Up for $15, Durham, NC
- Gary L. DeLuke UE Local 170 – West Virginia Public Workers Union*, Charleston, WV
- Benji Piles, Appalachian Workers Alliance*, Huntington, WV
- Don Cavellini, Co-Chair, Pitt County Coalition Against Racism*, Greenville, NC
- Bryan Pfeifer, Roanoke Education Association*, Roanoke, VA
- Khem Irby, Guilford County Education Association (NEA)*, Greensboro, NC
- Bonita Johnson, UE150, Butner, NC
- Darrion Smith, UE150, Butner, NC
- Tiffany Downey, UE150, Butner Chapter Recording Secretary, Butner, NC
- Daryl Brunson, UE150, Durham, NC
- Brenda Hines, Black Workers for Justice*, Burlington, NC
- Dante Strobino UE*, Durham, NC
- Will Cox, NC Healthcare Workers United (Winston-Salem Organizing Committee) *
- Isolene Peele, UE150, Durham, NC
- Ben Carroll, Raise Up for $15, Durham, NC
- Enrique C. Alba, Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside*, NYC, NY
- Roberto Meneses, Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside*, NYC, NY
- Gustavo Medina, UFT/Independent Workers Movement*, NYC, NY
- Minnie Bruce Pratt, UAW Local 1081/National Writers Union*
- Chris Nelson, Healthcare Workers United*, Charleston, SC
- Wendy Williams, Healthcare Workers United*, Charleston, SC
- Tyaisha Williams, Black Workers for Justice*, NC
- Dennis Orton, UE* / BWFJ*, Virginia
- Steve Bader, UE* International Representative, WV/NC
- David Cohen, UE* Retired, MA
- Greg Butterfield, National Organization of Legal Services Workers, UAW Local 2320*
- Susan E. Davis, National Writers Union, United Auto Workers Local 1981*
- Eric Fink, Greensboro, NC
- Rita Valenti, National Nurses Organizing Committee*, Atlanta, GA
- Dianne Mathiowetz, retired UAW local 10, producer, The Labor Forum, WRFG 89.3FM, Atlanta, GA