UAW President Bob King has announced that the United Auto Workers and IndustriALL Global Union have requested mediation by the U.S. State Department to protect workers’ organizing rights at the giant Nissan auto assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi.
The UAW and IndustriALL, a global union federation which represents Nissan and Renault unions worldwide, assert that Nissan’s “aggressive campaign of interference” with employees’ efforts to form a union at the Canton, Mississippi, plant is in violation of global standards on workers’ freedom of association. “Nissan and its Alliance partner Renault works with unions in every part of the world, yet in the United States it acts very differently. We are hopeful the OECD process will help us reach a just and fair resolution that ensures all Nissan workers can exercise the fundamental right to freedom of association without fear of retaliation or threats of job loss,” said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL.
A research report issued by the Mississippi NAACP in 2013 detailed systematic management predictions that Nissan would close the factory if workers form a union. The union has offered a plan called “UAW Principles for a Fair Election,” but Nissan has refused to engage the union on steps to ensure employee choice in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation.
The unions’ action is based on U.S. endorsement of the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a set of rules adopted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD is an international economic policy body in which the United States plays a key leadership role.
The OECD Guidelines aim to promote ethical behavior by multinational corporations in their foreign operations and supply chains. The guidelines cover human rights, non-corruption, tax honesty, environmental responsibility and other markers of good corporate conduct in firms’ overseas activities. They also cover employment and industrial relations, and require non-interference by management with workers’ organizing rights.
Each OECD country maintains a National Contact Point (NCP) to serve as a forum for confidential mediation and conciliation in disputes over the guidelines. Based in the State Department, the U.S. NCP relies on experienced mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to bring parties together in a confidential forum to explore ways of ending a conflict.
Under the OECD Guidelines, King explained, the U.S. NCP can also collaborate with counterparts in Japan, France and the Netherlands. Nissan is a Japanese corporation, but it is linked through cross-ownership with French automaker Renault. Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn is the head of both companies, and their Strategic Alliance is incorporated in the Netherlands. As a result, King said, the U.S. NCP can involve NCPs in those countries to help reach a result agreeable to all sides.
“Nissan is a global company that should abide by global standards that the United States and other countries have agreed on,” King concluded. “The OECD Guidelines offer a way for the UAW, IndustriALL and Nissan to talk to each other in a neutral setting overseen by professional mediators.”
With the request filed, the U.S. NCP has three months to decide whether to offer mediation services. Mediation would only take place if the UAW, IndustriALL and Nissan accept the NCP’s mediation offer. Once mediation begins, it aims at resolving the dispute within six months.