Nissan workers protest at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show (photo by John Voelcker)Enlarge Photo
Like every other automaker, Nissan is hoping to get loads of press coverage at this week's North American International Auto Show. That may happen, but not all of it will be for the reasons that CEO Carlos Ghosn and his team expected.
Nissan probably hoped to generate excitement around the reveal of the 2014 Versa and today's electric-car roundtable, hosted by Ghosn himself. But those events may be overshadowed by a protest organized by Nissan workers from Mississippi, who've been joined in their cause by actor Danny Glover.
The protesters form a group called the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan. The Alliance has distributed a flyer (pictured at left), inviting members of the media to a press event this morning. During the meeting, the Alliance promises to "detail how Nissan is denying workers in its Canton, Miss. plant a fair union election and using a campaign of fear to discourage employees from considering a union".
According to Detroit Free Press, Nissan denies that it has intimidated any of its Mississippi employees to prevent the formation of a union. Rather, Nissan claims that the job security and relatively high wages that the company offers have caused few workers to see the benefits of unionizing.
If the Alliance -- which has partnered with United Auto Workers -- succeeds in creating a union at Nissan's Canton, Mississippi plant, it would represent a sharp reversal of national trends.
As the Free Press points out, there are few unions for workers at Asian- and European-owned car companies in the U.S. That's no coincidence: many of those companies have built factories in the South, which consists almost entirely of right-to-work states. In those states, union membership isn't a pre-condition for employment, so unions have had a tough time gaining footholds with workers.
The situation isn't likely to improve. Union membership has been on the decline since 1983, when just over 20% of U.S. workers were unionized. Today, that figure sits around 11.8%.
And as you probably recall, Michigan recently became a right-to-work state, too, meaning that the power of unions at Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors may also begin to slip. In other words, Nissan workers in Mississippi are facing a steep, uphill battle.
Stay tuned to The Car Connection for updates on this and other stories from the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.