UAW invokes civil rights movement in bid to unionize Nissan plant

The United Auto Workers continues to pursue the unionization of a foreign automaker's plant in the U.S. and has redoubled its efforts on the Nissan facility in Canton, Mississippi. According to Reuters, the union plans to paint the organization effort as "the civil rights battle of the 21st century." Gary Casteel, one of the UAW's highest-ranking officials in the South has been quoted as saying the civil rights experience was fought in Mississippi. Since 70 percent of the Canton workforce is black, the UAW hopes the civil rights card will bring more votes toward unionization.

It's unclear whether the tactic will resonate with workers as the UAW has had little luck getting a foreign-owned plant to organize over the past 30 years. The union has pressed Nissan especially hard by attempting to unionize the company's Smyrna, Tennessee plant twice. Workers voted against the move both times. UAW President Bob King says that his organization needs to incorporate foreign-owned plants if it intends to survive. The UAW has seen membership slide off to a quarter of its numbers in 1979.

The Canton plant employs 3,900 workers and will soon be home to the next-generation Sentra. According to the Reuters report, the average full-time worker there earns $59,600 per year, with five hours of overtime per week. Veteran UAW workers, meanwhile, bring home $69,500 per year.

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