Recently in Canton, Mississippi 5000 Nissan autoworkers and their supporters marched and rallied as part of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union drive at the Nissan’s Canton plant.  Organizers deemed it the March on Mississippi.  Some 80 percent of the Nissan plant workers are Black.


Dr. Ken Morgan

Nissan workers say the union-busting tactics such as spying on workers, worker surveillance, interrogating workers, and threatening to close the plant is part of the Nissan’s anti-union arsenal.  To carry out these deeds according to plant workers, Nissan conducts individual meetings with them; queries them concerning the union; reviews their work history.  Still others say that they do not get promoted.  In some instances workers are terminated.

They marched not just for the right to unionize. Workers there say that Nissan runs the line disregarding worker safety and ergonomic health issues. The line refers to the automotive assembly line. Nissan workers say they want to be treated similar to the way Nissan wants their cars treated.

Nissan reportedly received from Mississippi state and local governments $1.33 billion in tax breaks to build the plant according to the UAW.  The deal contains some of the same kinds of subsidies that our dear Under Amour CEO received from the Baltimore city government. Nissan began operations there in 2003.

Canton is only a stone’s throw north of Jackson, Mississippi. In the civil rights movement, national attention focused on Canton when the Congress of Racial Equality held massive voter registration drives to gain basic democratic rights to vote.

Although Senator Bernie Sanders and former Ohio politician Nina Turner spoke at the rally, the issue remains not to help Democrats win back workers.  It is not a Democrat or Republican thing. It is a worker’s thing. It is a “Black Lives Matter” thing.  Remember, most Blacks are working class.

Nissan claims it is has one of the highest paid workforces in the state.  Figures show it is below auto industry average.  About a quarter of these workers make $12.75 as temporary workers and cannot be unionized.

The UAW drive needs to continue to garner support from all union members, civil rights, faith, and student groups in support of the plant’s 5,000 employees. Attacks on Nissan workers, immigrant rights and the fight for $15 an hour minimum wage here in Baltimore and nationally are part of our struggle.  It is the same struggle as fighting to end joblessness, gentrification, poor schooling, and housing.

I say one struggle, one fight.

Dr. Ken Morgan is an Urban Studies Asst. Professor at Coppin State University.  Member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unions, and the Baltimore Black Worker Center.