The Ed Show | January 29, 2013
>>> thanks for staying with us tonight. we often talk about the middle class on this program. we talk about a rising tide lifts all boats. i believe in that. i also believe that voices this the workplace lift the quality of life of workers in this country. and there is a new civil rights battle in a town where martin luther king first marched almost 50 years ago. some workers at this nissan plant in canton, mississippi , they want to vote. they want to organize. now a coalition of activist workers, students, and clergy members have joined forces in the community to make sure that thousands of employees get a chance to be heard. now some of the workers say the supervisors hold anti- union meetings. the workers just want to hear from the pro union side so they can have a fair vote. that's all they want to do is vote. the naacp has been involved for months on this issue. 70% of the workers at the canton plant are african-american. representative bennie tom addressed the issue back in june.
>> in america, being able to decide whether or not you want representation is a fundamental a political principle of human rights , civil rights and democracy.
>> this same week those same civil rights organizers held another news conference, of all places, they're serious, they went all the way to detroit. the detroit auto show . that's where they got up when it got under way. actor danny glover spoke. he is actively campaigning for the nissan workers rights . organizers are planning more news conferences at auto shows in chicago, in atlanta in the next few months. they're not going to give up. they're hoping the attention will simply help the workers in canton to get a choice about organizing. to be fair, not all of the employees want the union . nissan told us today that they just think a few employees are pushing for the vote. and it's understandably a full-time worker at a nissan assembly plant in canton, mississippi makes about $24.50 an hour. a long-time uaw worker makes $28 per hour. it's a good living. workers tell us they like their jobs there.
>> there is a lot of people that want to be here. and this job, this place can change a lot of lives. and, you know, the pride, it's in the vehicles themselves.
>> but here is the problem. workers have the right to organize. it's the law. and nissan has a reputation for beating back the unions. this summer, nissan 's ceo promised not to pressure the employees. he told reuters we will naturally remain very neutral on this. but that same ceo reportedly made a big screen anti- union speech to workers in smyrna, mississippi , back in 2001 . he told them the union might make this plant be not competitive and possibly shut down. shortly after that speech, smyrna workers rejected uaw by about 1600 votes. workers in canton say they feel threatened and intimidated if they talk about organizing. so we asked nissan here on "the ed show" about those claims today. david reuter told us, "we treat our employees with respect and routinely engage in an open dialogue on topics that impact our business." but in the same conversation, riot reuter also made this statement. if you're pro union , you're anti- nissan . i'm joined tonight by two people who say they're not anti- nissan . betty jones, a nissan employee, and derek johnson , president of the mississippi state naacp , and you can see workers behind them this evening from mississippi joining us here on "the ed show." great to have both of you with us. this has been going on for a long time. betty, you have worked at nissan for ten years. why do you want to organize? what is this about?
>> it was about us having a voice. it's about us coming together in unity with nissan . we're not here to bash nissan . we're here to join in unity with them, and to let them know that we do have a voice, and we have ideas to make this company a better company. and we just feel like with these anti- union meetings that we are being threatened, people on the job want to have a voice and want to organize, but they feel like if they do organize, they're going to lose their overtime. pay going to drop, and they want to, but just fear for their jobs. and i don't think that we should work in our jobs we fear. we should go there, due process at the process, do the job to the best of our abilities and we will produce quality vehicles for our customers.
>> okay. derek johnson , why is this a civil is rights issue? you have stated that before. why is it that way, in your opinion?
>> well, worker rights have always been a civil rights issues. the struggle we had to abolish slavery was about worker rights . the struggles in the '60s was about the right of workers being able to organize. in fact, dr. king was assassinated as he was organizing workers in memphis who wanted the right to have a voice as sanitation workers. so we see worker rights on the same playing field as voting rights , civil rights . it is about human dignity . and workers at nissan should know when they go to work on a monday morning, they should be able to predict whether or not they go to work three hours that day or 12 hours that day, whether or not they're going to work seven days a week or five days a week. how can workers be expected to raise a family, have a quality of life if a company like nissan don't respect them as human beings ?
>> betty, are there health and safety issues on the job in your opinion?
>> yes, it is. i mean, it's always room for improvement in areas on the job. i mean, yes, some areas are safe and some areas are not safe. but the point is that we have a voice. in dealing with safety, pay, how to do our jobs better. and we feel like that ideas do count. and nissan make us feel that they don't. so we want to organize to go with them in unity with them, to sit at the bargaining table, to make things better for us as a whole, us as a unity because where there is unity there is power and there is strength. and at least all we want is for us to be heard. and we do that process each and every day. and it's about -- we drive those vehicles. and we feel like that we should have the opportunity to sit with the department managers and the plant managers, sit at the table and bargain with them, let them know our ideas and what is better way to make the community better. and that's all about the community and us as family growing in mississippi . and we in mississippi do have a voice.
>> what are the chances of you getting -- what are the chances, betty, of you getting a vote in the workplace?
>> i don't think it's a chance where nissan is concerned. but with us as a union , that want to unionize, i believe it's a great opportunity for us. and we will get there.
>> because we will never stop.
>> derrick, what is the naacp doing to help these workers?
>> well, we've joined with pastors from across the state. we've organized committee as we've received calls, we're working with workers over their concerns. we're showing the workers that we have support. we're gathered here tonight at tupelo college because we understand that workers need support. they are an important part of our community. they are parishioners in our church, they are members of the naacp , they are human beings . and if workers in brazil can organize who work for nissan , if workers who japan who are nissan workers, if workers in south africa at their nissan plant are organize and able to collectively bargain, why shouldn't mississippi workers be able to organize? i think it's unfair and unfathomable that a company from outside of the united states come to mississippi and treat workers as unamerican. it is unfortunate that we can sit here today in the state that has a long history of exploiting workers for cheap labor to allow an international company to exploit our workers. we will not stand for it. as clergy, we will not stand for it as naacp , and we willstan stand with the workers.
>> okay. it's a story to follow. i know that danny glover is involved in this as far as telling the global story about how other countries are treating workers, and yet it seems to be getting worse for workers in this country. all you want is your voices heard and an opportunity for a vote in the workplace. it's a story we'll follow. betty jones and derrick johnson and all the folks down this in canton, mississippi , i really appreciate it. you got one more thing to say, derrick?
>> ed, i want people to go to underneaththehood.org, the committee. we've set up a website so you can learn more about what has taken place. because workers in mississippi , they are citizens of this country, they are humans, and they should be treated as such.
>> okay. thank you so much. appreciate you're time tonight.
>> thank you.
>>> coming up, hillary clinton held her final town hall today. addressing rumors of a 2016 presidential bid and the future of women in leadership. i'll bring you those comments. stay with us.