Heaven Help the UAW: Union Solicits Help from Faith Community in Mississippi

Posted by Tucker Nelson on Friday, April 4th, 2014 at 1:29 pm - Permalink

It is no secret that the United Auto Workers union failed in its attempt to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee just a few short weeks ago.

The union has not given up on Chattanooga, but the Nissan plant in Mississippi is also in its sight.

Canton, Mississippi is the location of a 5,000 employee Nissan plant. As the union seems to be on damage control after its embarrassing performance in Tennessee, they are looking for new tactics to organize in Mississippi.

The UAW is looking for help from an unlikely source — pastors.  Yes, pastors are serving as the mouth piece for the UAW. A recent article published by the Los Angeles Times profiled the work of a few of the pastors. Rev. Charles Miller of Ridgleland Mississippi leads his congregation to “… pray for the employees who are working at Nissan” and to “"… pray you wake up the conscience of those [sic] that are oppressing them."

But Rev. Miller is not the only pastor at work for the UAW. The UAW has helped others in the faith community to form “Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan.” This group meets with the union before they set up rallies, and the UAW even provides the funds for many of these pastors to travel to events across the country and even to Brazil.

The demographics of the Canton plant are different than that of what the UAW faced in Chattanooga, with higher proportion of African American workers. The LA Times reported that “Historically, African Americans are more open to unions than white workers” and despite the low unionization rates in Mississippi of 4 percent, the pastors serve as an in to many of these African American communities.

If the pastors don’t work out for the UAW, the union has also enlisted help from the NAACP. In October of 2013 the NAACP issued a report against Nissan claiming that the company was “…. obstructing efforts by Canton employees to build support for the union.” The report was even funded by the UAW according to The Wall Street Journal. The NAACP may seem like an odd choice for the union, but Derrick Johnson president of the NAACP’s Mississippi branch, believes the organization’s presence is very relevant, because he claims that “historically the right to organize and the civil rights movement have been intertwined.”

The race rhetoric is something that the union is also using in their arsenal. “Mr. Johnson of the NAACP acknowledged that some workers have expressed concern about racism at the Nissan plant.” The union hopes that the demographics of this plant will give them the opportunity to make racial allegations.

With the union’s reputation on the line they feel the need to not only pull the race card, but the religious one as well.