Danny Glover speaks about the March on Mississippi
“Tell Nissan that labor rights are civil rights”
OXFORD, Miss. — Actor Danny Glover speaks at the Meek School in Farley Hall on the Ole Miss Campus Friday evening, Feb. 17, in regards to the upcoming March on Mississippi.
The United Auto Workers gathered in room 202 Farley Hall last Friday to hold a March on Mississippi interest meeting. The hourlong meeting started off with Nissan auto worker, Morris Mock, giving updates about the current campaign and a video of fellow Nissan worker, Michael Carter, campaigning at Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, MS.
UAW Advisor, Richard Bensinger, Students against Local Injustice leader, Dominique Scott and a few other student NAACP leaders, also discussed the student campaign updates on how they are helping bring this issue to light in the student community.
“There’s a lot of things that we need to change,” says Carter. “We just want a fair election, and [be] free of intimidation.” He then goes on to say, “people are getting hurt and are afraid to go to the medical clinic in fear of losing their jobs.”
Mock, a worker for the Nissan plant for 13 years now, added on to what Carter had to say by explaining what it is like to work in two Southeastern locations; Canton, Mississippi and Spartan, Tennessee. He says that since 2012, three people have died in the Spartan location and since 2014, a few more, including friend and coworker, Derrick Whitting, have died in the Canton plant.
“We want respect and dignity as a worker. We want to make it better than when we got there,” he adds. Mock also says that the ones in charge at Nissan will even hide the toilet paper between breaks so you can’t use the bathroom and have to get back to work.
“Rights of workers now have been curtailed or have been stepped upon,” says actor and special guest speaker, Danny Glover. “Tax advantages, Nissan got promised certain things. None happened.” He then goes on to say that it’s not quite a relationship of equals when it comes to conversations about the workplace and conversations about the responsibilities of employees.
Nissan has 45 global production plants. Out of those 45, 42 are unionized and only three located in Mississippi and Tennessee aren’t.
“This makes the employees question ‘why not us? Are we not worth it,’” says Glover. “Without struggle there is no progress. Struggle is continuous of gestures. [And] that passion changes your life and becomes part of a continuum.” He says that is the motivation that keeps UAW working for the changes that need to be made at Nissan in regards to the care of its employees.
Bensinger then steps up to explain that workers want a union for safety and better working conditions. A union would also help with an intimidation-free election. “Out of the 5,000 people working in the plant, 80 percent are African American,” he says. And out of that 80 percent, 40 percent are temporary workers, so it’s not a career. By Nissan keeping them at temp worker status, this means that they don’t have to give them employee benefits.
“What role is the federal government playing in regards to the Nissan workers,” asks one audience member. Bensinger replies by saying that the NLRB has been charged. Nissan has written an apology letter for threatening workers on the assembly line and continues to hire the best PR agencies to protect their reputation globally. In response, the NLRB threatens to close Nissan down if they continue to threaten employees and keep them from their rights.
Though subtle, threats include letters to workers homes saying they will be fired or severely reprimanded for continuing to try and organize a labor union. They have told black workers that people who want to join a union are lazy, and have told the white workers that unions are only for black workers.
Well what about after the march? What can we do to insure that Nissan makes and follows through with their long term commitments to their workers? Various audience members asked these questions and Glover responded with, “be careful who you vote for and don’t be ignorant to the facts.” he goes on to say that the governor of Mississippi has signed three anti-labor union laws.
“One person fights for a livable wage while the other fights for a competitive wage,” Glover adds. It’s a market edge to pay less because it’s in Mississippi. This means cheaper labor no matter the education level. “We have to be careful who represents us and vote their tail out.”
Mock says the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan helps the employees feel protected by having support from the community. “They feel like it makes it safer to speak out.”
The march itself will take place on March 4, in Canton, Mississippi. It will be led by Danny Glover and Bernie Sanders. Free transportation to the marches will be provided from Ole Miss to Canton via busses. The busses leave around 8 a.m. and will be back around 6 p.m.
“It’s a good time to be a student,” says Scott. “We have access to resources, we have all this time. It’s a privilege, so why not use it?”