NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE (AP) – Several dozen workers among thousands at a Nissan factory in Tennessee, United States (US) voted not to unionise on Thursday, another loss in tough territory for organised labour at a foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the traditionally anti-union South.
The 62-9 vote against the union at Nissan’s Smyrna plant followed two years of legal wrangling in front of the National Labour Relations Board that spanned two presidential administrations.
In a statement, the machinists union said the delayed decision from the federal labour board had a “chilling effect” on the campaign. A machinists union representative noted earlier this week that some employees from the original drive had quit, left for other jobs or retired since the push began.
“The International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Worker (IAM) will continue to support these workers so we will be prepared for them to join our union when the time is right again. We want to thank our organisers for their tireless work in this campaign,” Thursday’s statement said.
In a statement after the vote, Nissan spokesperson Lloryn Love-Carter said the workers “elected to maintain their direct relationship with the company”.
Love-Carter has previously said Nissan believes its workplace is “stronger without the involvement of third-party unions” like the IAM.
Still, she emphasised that employees have the right to decide whether to join a union, a right that has been enshrined in federal law since the 1930s.
Nationwide, several high-profile unionisation campaigns at Starbucks, Amazon, Apple and other companies have given organised labour a renewed spotlight of late, even as the union membership rate reached an all-time low last year. The number of workers belonging to a union actually increased by 1.9 per cent to 14.3 million, but that failed to keep pace with higher overall employment rates.
Organisers cited a variety of reasons to unionise at the Nissan plant about 40 kilometres outside Nashville. Those include retirement, work-life balance and healthcare issues they want to negotiate.