Stand With Nissan Workers

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking to Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi.

At a time when the middle class of this country is shrinking and too many working people are struggling to make ends meet, when they are worried about the cost of health care, education for their kids and a dignified retirement, I am proud to stand with everyone who is fighting for dignity on the job and the right to join a union at Nissan.

What Nissan workers in Mississippi are doing takes real courage. They are standing up to a powerful multi-billion dollar global corporation and they are doing that in a state government hostile to the needs of working people and unions. They are standing up to a state government for their kids and their families. They are standing up for economic and racial justice. They are standing up for exploited workers all across the country, many of who have lost hope, and who will be looking at Canton to see if working people can take on a powerful global corporation and secure justice. If Mississippi Nissan workers succeed, it will send a powerful message in the south and across this country that working people are prepared to fight for justice and for a fair share of the economic pie.

Let us be very clear: Despite all of the lies and misinformation that have been spread, Nissan has union representation in 42 out of 45 of its plants around the world. It has a union in Japan. It has a union in France. It has a union in England, Australia, and Spain. If it can negotiate with unions all around he world, surely it can negotiate with a union in Canton, Mississippi.

But today, Nissan is doing everything that it can to deny workers in the south the right to join a union and bargain collectively for higher wages, safer working conditions, decent health care and a secure retirement.

They are hiring low-wage temp workers who earn as little as $12 bucks an hour. Well, workers in a modern plant owned by a major corporation should not be earning $12 an hour because people can’t make it on $12 an hour.

They have threatened to fire workers who are pro-union.

They are forcing workers to watch anti-union videos.

They have been fined $21,000 for safety violations after a worker at this plant lost three fingers.

They have even implied that if workers vote to join a union they will shut down this plant.

That is unacceptable, it is against the law and it has got to change!

Let’s be clear. Nissan is not a poor company. It is not losing money. Last year, it made a record-breaking $6.6 billion in profits and it gave its CEO more than $9.5 million in total compensation.

Today, all of us, need to send a very loud and a very clear message to Nissan and other large, profitable corporations: Stop the threats. Stop the intimidation. Stop the harassment. Stop the coercion.

Start treating your workers with the respect and the dignity that they deserve. Give your workers a seat at the bargaining table. Give your workers the freedom to join a union. Stop the race to the bottom!

It is no secret why Nissan chose to build a plant in Mississippi.

Today, Mississippi is the poorest state in this country.

Over 30 percent of kids in this state are living in poverty, the highest in the nation.

The average weekly wage in Mississippi is just $727, the lowest in the nation.

Very few people in Mississippi have a defined benefit pension plan.

One out of five people in Mississippi suffer from food insecurity, the worst rate in the country.

What corporations understand is that if they can stop workers in Mississippi from forming a union, they can keep wages down in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

They can keep telling workers in the North that if they don’t accept lower wages, if they don’t agree to give up their pensions and health care benefits, they’ll just pack up and move to the South.

But on the other hand, if workers vote to form a union in the State of Mississippi it will be the shot heard around the world.

If auto workers in Mississippi are able to negotiate for higher wages and better working conditions here, wages will go up in the North and in every state in America.

If they have the courage to form a union in Mississippi, they will do it in Alabama. They’ll do it in Tennessee. They’ll do it in Georgia.

And instead of a race to the bottom, we can start lifting up living standards throughout the country.

Brothers and sisters, here is what Nissan does not want you to know.

Union workers earn 27 percent more, on average, than non-union workers. 76 percent of union workers have a guaranteed defined benefit pension plan, compared to only 16 percent of non-union workers. 82 percent of union workers have paid sick leave, compared to just 62 percent of non-union workers.

That is why corporate bosses have been doing everything in their power to crush the union movement.

The reality is that over the past 40 years, corporations have been waging a war against workers and they have been winning that war.

Forty years ago, more than a quarter of all workers belonged to a union. Today, that number has gone down to just 11 percent and in the private sector it is now less than 7 percent.

When workers lose their seat at the negotiating table, what happens?

Since 1999, real median income has gone down by about $1,400. Median income for full-time male workers is about $2,200 less today than it was 44 years ago. And since 2007, median income for women workers has hardly budged.

Meanwhile, since the Wall Street crash, 52 percent of all new income is going to the top one percent.

The top one-tenth of one percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

And one family in America now owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent.

The reality is that the rights of workers in America today have been severely undermined.

Today, if an employee is engaged in a union organizing campaign, that employee has a one in five chance of getting fired. Does that sound familiar?

Today, half of all employers threaten to close or relocate their businesses if workers elect to form a union. Does that sound familiar?

Today, when workers become interested in forming a union, they will almost always be forced to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda; and their supervisors will almost always be forced to attend training sessions on how to attack unions. Does that sound familiar?

As Human Rights Watch has said: “Freedom of association is a right under severe, often buckling pressure when workers in the United States try to exercise it.”

Nissan workers in Mississippi have the power to turn this around. They have the power to improve working conditions all over this country.

If we all stand up and fight back against this corporate greed, there is nothing, nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.

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