Members of the community showed their support for Nissan employees at the March on Mississippi. A vote this week will determine whether nearly 4,000 workers will be represented by the United Auto Workers.  

Momentum is building in the days before a planned vote of more than 4,000 workers at Nissan in Mississippi. 

Following a March 4 “March on Mississippi” rally that drew the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders and celebrity activist Danny Glover, workers are seeing the community coalesce around their effort. Around 5,000 people attended, including union members, state and local politicians, human rights advocates, the United Auto Workers and multiple NAACP branches.

“People thought, ‘If [Sanders] could come and speak up for me, then we know people got our back,’” Canton plant employee Jeff Moore told The Guardian.

Nissan Motor Co. opened the Canton facility 12 years ago. The assembly plant, which produces the Murano S.U.V. and the Titan pickup truck, is one of three globally whose workers are not represented by a union.

Workers are hoping a UAW contract will help them gain safer working conditions as well as advancement opportunities, more predictable schedules and an end to lower wage and temporary employment contracts. The two-day vote starts on Aug. 3.

“All Nissan workers want is freedom – the freedom to come together and build a better workplace,” said IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “The IBEW stands in full solidarity with Mississippi Nissan workers as they exercise their right to join together in union.”

Jackson Local 480 Business Manager Brooks Martin said he attended the March rally, and supports the Canton workers. “One person can’t stand up against a company that large, not when the anti-union sentiment is so strong,” he said. “The workers have never been represented by a union and don’t know what to believe regarding the good that a union can do for them.” 

Martin said the radio and television airwaves have been clogged with Nissan’s expensive advertising effort to convince workers to vote “no.” Inside the plant, management is forcing workers to watch anti-labor videos that suggest unionization would cause the plant to close. Management has also been accused of threatening to fire those seen speaking to organizers.

Even the governor of Mississippi is weighing in. "I don't think we need a union to come in there and tell us how to make a better automobile," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "They can get back on the Bernie Sanders bus and go back to New York, and I'll pay their way."

Long a nonunion stronghold, the South has seen some recent high-profile organizing losses in recent years, notably the UAW’s 2014 Volkswagen vote in Chattanooga, Tenn, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at Boeing in Charleston, S.C. A recent outlier was the Electrolux Memphis, Tenn., plant the IBEW organized in September 2016.