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Union Vote at Nissan

The NLRB has authorized a vote on whether to join IAM in Tennessee

Brian Young's picture
Jun 14, 2021

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has authorized a union election at a Nissan plant in Tennessee that includes nearly 4,300 workers. The election is the latest attempt for unions to gain a foothold in the South and to organize the Asian carmakers.

The election, which will take place in person on July 7-8, includes all full-time and regular part time production technicians and production technician leaders, maintenance technicians and maintenance technician leaders, tool and die maintenance technicians and tool and die maintenance technician leaders employed by the Employer at its Smyrna, Tennessee facility, who were employed during the payroll period ending June 6, 2021. This will be the largest in person election since the pandemic began.

This bargaining unit is drastically different than the one IAM originally organized. When they filed for the initial election in March, they were requesting to hold a vote of a micro union. This vote would have covered just 87 tool and die maintenance technicians at the Smyrna plant. However, the company fought this saying that rather than just representing the one small shop, that the election should include everyone at the plant. In their ruling the NLRB Region 10 board ruled that since the Tool and Die workers shared numerous similarities to the rest of the workers at the plant the unit should be expanded to include those other positions.

“Based on the foregoing, I find that the petitioned-for Tool and Die Technicians share an overwhelming community of interest not only with the rest of the Stamping Shop, but with the Production Technicians and Maintenance Technicians throughout the facility. The only appropriate unit is a plant-wide unit of production and maintenance employees,” wrote the board.

Both sides also agreed to an in-person vote arguing that the vote could be held safely due to decreasing cases of COVID and safety precautions that have been put into place by both sides. However instead of taking place inside of the factory, two tents with opaque walls to provide ventilation while protecting the identity of workers votes, will be set up outside of the entrance to the facility.

While Nissan does have unionized employees in other parts of the world, their two factories in the United States are both non-union. Previously workers at the Smyrna plant have rejected UAW organizing attempts in 1989 and 2001, while their plant in Canton Mississippi rejected a UAW organizing attempt in 2017.

At the Nissan plant, the Machinists union says workers have cited numerous workplace concerns, from forced overtime to increased health care costs. Laura Ewan, an attorney representing the union, said the workers were excluded from a buyout offer to plant employees in general because of issues hiring people for the specialized jobs.

“A union contract will ensure fair wages, benefits, working conditions and the ability to retire with dignity,” said lead campaign organizer Tim Wright, machinists union Grand Lodge representative.

While Tennessee is definitely not a union-friendly state, it is the home to the General Motors Spring Hill plant which employs about 3,000 UAW members.

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