UAW-Nissan vote seen as national test

A membership vote by Nissan workers in Mississippi today and Friday is seen as a national test of the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) organizing prowess — and the issue is relevant to the Dayton area, which is seeing its own union representation struggle.

More than 3,500 blue-collar workers at the Nissan assembly plant in Canton, Miss. will vote over two days on whether to join the UAW. The plant opened some 14 years ago and with more than 6,400 workers total coming from 61 of the state’s 82 counties, according to Nissan.

RELATED: Growing pains at Fuyao plant as employees consider union

“I have to think all eyes are on this election,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry, Labor, & Economics Group for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “The UAW needs to represent a larger share of the workforce in this sector in order to gain some of the bargaining power” that the union enjoyed in past years.

The UAW has represented workers in jointly owned and foreign-owned plants, she said. They’ve gotten some traction in representing foreign-owned suppliers.

Still, this plant, and this election, are big.

“All eyes are on Nissan because it’s the big Kahuna,” Dziczek said.

A win here could fuel efforts at smaller plants elsewhere, she believes.

“No question that if they did win they would be riding some momentum,” she said. “It would get them some air into their sails to go on with these organizing drives.”

Since 2013, the number of Nissan jobs in Canton has grown by nearly 30 percent, the automaker said. The UAW has tried to secure representation there for more than a decade.

The campaign has drawn national attention, as has the UAW’s work around Dayton, as it tries to drum up support for a National Labor Relations Board representation election at Moraine’s Fuyao Glass America, which has 1,800 production workers and about 2,000 workers total.

RELATEDFuyao Glass leaders skeptical of union support

As in Canton, the UAW has created a web site devoted to its efforts to organize Fuyao. The UAW held a rally in Dayton in April that the union said drew 75 to 100 Fuyao workers.

Boosted by stronger auto sales, UAW national membership rose by more than 5,000 in 2015 to 408,639, according to UAW U.S. Department of Labor filings. But membership is still well below its historic height of about 1.5 million in 1979.

RELATEDUAW makes case to Fuyao workers

“They’ve really beefed up resources in organizing in the last 10 or 12 years,” Dziczek said.

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