Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi rejected a motion to join the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union on Thursday and Friday. The 3,500 worker vote resulted in roughly 60% voting against the union with the remainder in favor of unionizing. The vote came after some controversial practices by Nissan to dissuade the manufacturing workers from joining the union. The UAW and Nissan employees have claimed that Nissan was threatening to terminate them if they voted in favor of unionizing. The UAW issued a complaint that was taken up with the National Labor Relations Board that dealt with the aforementioned threats of termination as a result of voting in favor of the union.
It is impossible to know what the vote would have been without Nissan’s threat but something tells me the workers still would have rejected the union. Mississippi is a Right To Work state which grants employees the choice of whether or not they want to unionize. Union membership in Mississippi is below the national average of 10.7% for all workers, coming in at 8.1% based off data from 2016.
The Canton plant pays its workers $26 an hour which was quite surprising to hear actually. Many employees of the plant have cited that they get paid essentially the same and receive most of the same benefits as a typically unionized plant which was their driving reason for voting against the union. With that said, this a rare case. On average, unionized workers make 20% more than their non-unionized counterparts. This has been on par with historical trends which have shown members of unions typically earn more than those who are not in unions.
President Trump ran a populist campaign with bringing back manufacturing jobs as a cornerstone of his economic message. So far several companies have announced that they will be creating factories and jobs in the U.S, most recently Foxconn. Some of these arrangements have left some people questioning how well these jobs will turn out for their respective communities due to incentives given by states such as Wisconsin in the Foxconn deal. It is difficult to pinpoint how much of an effect that Trump has had on the companies investing in the U.S but nonetheless, companies have given their commitment.
It can be argued that Trump’s economic vision in the sense of reviving manufacturing is of progressive nature. Any true progressive should support Trump if he can accomplish that goal. With that being said, there may be a disconnect between what Trump envisions and what workers want. Trump voters were yearning for the good ol’ days when they took to the ballot box in 2016 with hopes of returning to the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s when manufacturing was the bedrock of the U.S economy. I would love nothing more than to make those jobs relevant again but those jobs were so good because they were unionized. In the 1950’s union membership rates peaked at 35%. There has been a steady decline as now only 1 in 10 workers belong to unions.
This creates a dilemma with the conservative ideology that Trump has embraced. Conservatives typically dislike unions, the minimum wage and anything else that interferes with the “free market.” If manufacturing does slightly come back do we expect those workers to be unionized or not? If not, there is a real possibility that those wages and benefits will not live up to typical manufacturing job standards. Would conservatives be okay if those jobs that use to guarantee a middle class lifestyle pays the $7.25 federal minimum wage because that’s what the market dictates? If we want to bring back manufacturing jobs we need to bring back the unions that made them so popular in the first place.