published Friday, March 1st, 2013

United Auto Workers meets with Nissan employees in Smyrna

Suzanne Bryson assembles Nissan Altima and Frontier 4-cylinder engines at the Decherd, Tenn., plant.
Suzanne Bryson assembles Nissan Altima and Frontier 4-cylinder engines at the Decherd, Tenn., plant.
Photo by Dan Henry.

The United Auto Workers Union is laying the groundwork for a possible third union representation vote at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

Plant employees turned down the union by a 2-1 margin in 2001. A 1989 UAW attempt to organize the plant also failed.

The Tennessean reported hundreds of Nissan workers attended meetings this week at the Smyrna Town Center, at which union representatives made their case.

The UAW message resonated with Michael Thompson of Smyrna, who said he has worked at the plant for a decade.

“There’s more support for it now than I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I think it’s very necessary.”

Ed Ensley, of Mount Juliet, Tenn., said he has worked at the plant for nearly 28 years and supports a representation election.

“Nissan is probably going to make a profit of 7 billion or 8 billion dollars this year, and we haven’t had a raise in over seven years.”

For Robert Bruhn, who makes a 94-mile round trip from Smithville to work, the issue is fair wages. Bruhn works for Yates Services, which supplies about a third of the plant’s workers as temporary employees.

“I’m making $10 less an hour than people doing the same work, and I get none of the perks, not even the leased car,” Bruhn said.

Regular Nissan workers make nearly $25 per hour.

UAW Representative Gary Casteel said Smyrna Nissan workers contacted the union and asked for a new drive at the plant, probably because of an effort to organize Nissan’s plant in Mississippi.

“Workers here have seen all the activity going on around Canton, and they began to ask us to see what we might be able to do in Smyrna,” Casteel said.

Nissan spokesman Justin Saia said the decision about who represents employees is theirs to make.

Saia said the company is aware of the meetings.

“I can’t speculate on the motives of the UAW,” he said. “Nissan employees are well paid and enjoy some of the most secure jobs in the state of Tennessee.”

Since Nissan has been in Smyrna, employees have chosen to represent themselves in a relationship with the company that is based on transparency and mutual respect.”

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