‘Why not Mississippi?’
On March 4, hundreds of people from across Mississippi gathered at the Canton Multipurpose Complex to protest poor treatment and unsafe working conditions for workers at the Renault-Nissan manufacturing plant.
The Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFN) hosted the event. Prominent political figures including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Nina Turner, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks and actor Danny Glover joined hundreds of Nissan employees in solidarity with their fight for workers’ rights and unionization.
Canton’s Nissan assembly plant is one of three company facilities worldwide that do not have unions.
Crowds chanted, “Why not Mississippi?” throughout the protest.
“There is an ongoing anti-union campaign happening daily within the Canton plant,” the MAFN mission statement reads. “The company wants to continue to hide from their responsibilities of creating safe working conditions, real health benefits and job security. Their campaign of fear spreads lies to the workers, saying a union will close the plant.”
Sanders said there is a reason why large multi-national corporations continue to come to the South and have done so for many decades.
“[Corporations] think that people here in the South are not prepared to stand up and fight back,” Sanders said. “They’ve got another guess coming.”
According to the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, the National Labor Relations Board charged Nissan and a temporary worker agency with violating workers’ rights in Mississippi in 2015. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued multiple citations against Nissan for violations of federal safety and health laws, the most recent of which found that Nissan “did not furnish . . . a place of employment which was free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”
“People lose limbs, sustain lifelong injuries and often times are refused light-duty or workman’s compensation,” MAFN said in its mission statement. “Senior workers are forced out of their positions with faulty drug testing. Workers have even died inside the plant. We can’t sit by and allow this to happen to Mississippians.”
In his speech, Sanders called the protest a “struggle for dignity.”
“The reason that we see opposition to unions here in Mississippi and in fact, all over the country, is because unions work in providing increased wages and benefits,” Sanders said. “The eyes of the country and the eyes of the world are on you this moment. One worker walking into a multi- billion dollar national corporation has zero power but when workers stand together and they negotiate contracts for decent wages, for decent working conditions, for decent healthcare – you have power.”