By Sid Salter/Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
STARKVILLE, Miss. —
I rather liked Danny Glover’s acting in the films “Places in the Heart” and “The Color Purple” back in the 1980s. But his performances in recent pro-union rallies in Canton and in related ones in Detroit are far less convincing.
Glover, now 66, is joining an organization called the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan in accusing the global automaker of intimidation during an ongoing United Auto Workers effort to unionize Nissan’s Mississippi plant. The Canton plant assembles seven different vehicles, including the Titan and Frontier pickups, Armada and Xterra SUVs, Altima sedan and two Nissan vans. The auto plant has a total of 5,000 full-time and contract employees.
The “intimidation” accusation — which Nissan executives have called “unfounded” — center on instances in which employees at the Canton plant have been seen wearing T-shirts reading “Want a union? Move to Detroit.”
Nissan officials responded by saying that Nissan employees opposing a union chose to wear the shirts as a show of support for the company. Glover told The Detroit News on Jan. 14 during the 2013 North American International Auto Show: “The right to work doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to organize,” Glover said. “They (Nissan) have unions in South Africa and Japan. We’re only asking for the right to vote on a union and not face intimidation.”
Two prior UAW efforts to unionize the Canton plant have failed. Nissan workers in Smyrna, Tenn., rejected a union vote at that facility in 2001. And while the UAW’s effort to break Mississippi’s “right to work” state status with a successful unionization push at the Nissan plant in Canton is understandable from the perspective of perpetuating the existence of the UAW, it’s less clear the benefit to the plant’s workers.
Other than perpetuating the union’s eroding existence with new members and new union dues, the UAW has to make some sort of rational pitch to the state’s auto workers as to why it would be to their advantage to pay dues to the union.
There have been incredibly vague and as yet unsubstantiated allegations of “human rights violations” by union organizers and some of the beneficiaries of their campaign contribution largesse in Congress, but the UAW has yet to offer any substantive examples of why Mississippi auto workers need union representation.
Pro-union organizers have failed to make the case that worker safety is endangered or that wages are out of line with other non-union auto manufacturing plants in the region. More to the point, the former seat of power for the UAW — Detroit — is also the formerly almost exclusive headquarters of American automakers. That’s no longer true. Why?
There’s a “Detroit South” in places like Canton and Blue Springs, Mississippi, because the real Detroit imploded and the impact of union labor contracts was a fundamental contributing cause of that implosion. Not the sole cause, mind you, but a major factor.
There was a visible absence of Danny Glover’s passion in Canton back when there were few manufacturing jobs paying workers the type of wages that Nissan pays there today. Labor unions are about 50 percent smaller today than they were back in 1975 — and that’s not an actor’s tale, that’s a fact.
Bottom line? Mississippi’s right-to-work status is helping spur modern-day economic development that is raising Mississippi’s per capita personal income.
(Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 601-507-8004 or email@example.com)