JACKSON — Mississippi could have a harder time attracting jobs if Nissan workers vote to join a union, the head of the state Chamber of Commerce said Thursday.
Scott Waller, interim president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, said the state benefits from having a mostly nonunion workforce. He referred to Mississippi being among the southern states that have attracted automotive manufacturers and suppliers in about the past 20 years.
“Part of what you’ve seen in the growth of the southern auto corridor is a result of that it’s not unionized. If that were to happen, then that could possibly really hamper that growth,” Waller said as MEC released a report automotive industry jobs in the state.
About 4,000 employees at a Nissan Motor Co.’s manufacturing plant in Canton, just north of Jackson, will vote Aug. 3 and 4 on whether to affiliate with the United Auto Workers. It will be the first union vote at the plant, which opened in 2003.
Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, said workers at the Canton plant “deserve the same kind of job security, health insurance and pension benefits” as workers in unionized plants.
“What’s best for the employee is usually best for the employer and vice versa,” Casteel said in a statement. “The reality is: The Canton plant is one of only three Nissan plants in the world that don’t have a union. The other two facilities are in Tennessee. There’s an abundance of evidence that unions help with job creation in the manufacturing sector.”
The UAW has never organized an entire foreign-owned auto plant in the South, although it did win an election among maintenance technicians at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
UAW President Dennis Williams said Thursday in Detroit that union leaders are confident they could win if the election in Mississippi were held now, but they know workers will face negative campaigning before the vote.
The Mississippi Economic Council report showed that 18,251 jobs were connected to the auto industry in Mississippi in 2016, accounting for about $5.7 billion of the state’s $90 billion gross domestic product. Many of the jobs are at the Nissan plant in Canton and a Toyota manufacturing plant in Blue Springs. Others are at suppliers and at tire manufacturers.
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