October 17, 2013

By Freddie Allen

NNPA Washington Correspondent

Twenty miles north of Jackson, Miss., at a Nissan auto plant in Canton, Nissan North America has violated international labor laws in a decade-long campaign against unions that civil rights activists have called “systematic and unrelenting,” according to a new report.

Through first-hand accounts from former and current workers, the report by the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and Lance Compa, an international labor law scholar, details how plant managers and consultants manufactured a fiercely anti-union environment of fear and intimidation as plant workers assembled a number of Nissan models, including Altima sedans, Titan trucks, and Armada sports utility vehicles, and helped Nissan make more than $4 billion in annual net profits.

Even though workers at Nissan plants in Japan, Australia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, Russia and Mexico were allowed to unionize, Rosalind Essex, an engine quality technician at the Canton plant, said that she was told during training that, “Nissan is a nonunion company” and “Nissan has never had a union.”

Essex said, “It’s like they wanted to put the fear of God in you from day one.”

According to the report, Canton plant workers reported a number of transgressions committed by Nissan management including favoritism and unfair treatment, retaliatory job assignments, lack of consideration for seniority, denial of bathroom use and freezing of the pension plan.

In an effort to ensure transparency, researchers allowed Nissan to comment on the report as it was being prepared.

Nissan maintains that it has adhered “to the principles of respect for freedom of association and the effective right to collective bargaining outlined in the [United Nations Global Compact] and the 1998 [International Labor Organization] Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights to Work],” and that “employees have chosen to maintain a direct relationship with the company rather than inviting an outside party like the UAW to speak for them.”

Researchers and workers’ rights activist contend that Nissan has ignored those basic principles at its Canton plant.

“Under international law and pursuant to its own stated commitments, Nissan is supposed to respect human rights standards on workers’ freedom of association – the right to organize and the right to collective bargaining,” stated the report. “But in the Canton plant, contrary to its cooperative approach to dealing with unions elsewhere in the world, Nissan has launched a sustained, aggressive campaign of fear and intimidation to nullify these rights.”

According to the report, “Contrary to international standards, U.S. labor law gives wide latitude to employers to launch aggressive campaigns against workers’ organizing efforts.”

The report continued: “Employ­ers cannot make outright threats such as ‘if you vote for a union, we will close the workplace.’ But they convey the same message using a variety of subtle communication ploys that have been perfected by anti-union lawyers and consultants.”

At a press conference last week, Lance Compa, an international labor law scholar, said that Nissan takes advantage of modern technology, broadcasting anti-union programs on TV monitors throughout the plant, showing shuttered Ford and GM plants and workers who have lost jobs.

“There’s a lot of good news about UAW and about General Motors and about Ford, but that news does not go up there,” said Compa. “It’s an entirely one-sided, propagandistic use of this big brother technique, having these films inside the plant.”

Compa said that Nissan’s roundtable discussions were even more dramatic and effective than the videos in intimidating workers about unionizing. Using the videos, “captive audience” meetings and the roundtables, Nissan hammers home the message that unions are job killers, unions are plant closers.

U.S. labor law allows companies to conflate union representation with plant closings and unemployment in messaging that is supposed to be neutral.

“The unfortunate thing under U.S. labor law is that they can do this to a large extent,” said Compa. “The company can’t say, ‘if you bring a union in we’re going to shut this place down,’ but they can say ‘if you bring a union in and the union puts us in an uncompetitive position, we’ll have to consider shutting this place down.’”

Compa explained, “By using that kind of conditional language the anti-union consultants and the anti-union lawyers have perfected the kind of messaging that can have this effect. This will frighten the bejeebs out of people and so they will never consider forming a union.”

Essex, who said she contacted United Auto Workers union representatives in 2004, later recounted that during one of those meetings managers told employees that “unions are just like the Mafia, they are just after your dues money.”

Essex recounted, “People that didn’t know better were scared, and they’re still scared.”

“Fear, intimidation and even racism is a part of that plant every day. We go through a lot of that,” said Chris Milton a 10-year veteran of the plant who works on the assembly line that stamps vehicles.

After receiving special training on new plant equipment for three months in Japan, Milton returned to Caton, only to be replaced by another employee that he trained, missing out on a valuable opportunity to climb another rung up the company ladder.

“What really got me was a lot of White guys came up to me and said, ‘Chris that is some really racial stuff,’” said Milton. “You know when White people come to you and tell you that something racial is happening to you, it’s a big problem.

“We need a voice at this plant. I’m proud to work at Nissan. It’s a great job, but the intimidation and the fear have to stop. We deserve to have an election free and clear with no problems or anything.”

A number of workers’ rights advocates, including the NAACP, congressional leaders and student activists have stepped up to support the workers at the Canton plant.

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, said that the quality of work conditions at the plant are important because the workers there are members of local organizations, churches and community groups.

“Our role is to make sure that we can be a voice for workers who cannot be a voice for themselves,” said Johnson. “If there is an opportunity for them to proceed with an election, then we want to have a wrap-around community of support for those workers.”

Johnson continued: “If we invest in their success their success will mean success, not only for the communities that we come from, but also for the state of Mississippi.”

Milton agreed.

“Mississippi is always at the back of the bus,” said Milton. “It’s time for us to come ahead in something and this is our chance to do so.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Business

October 10, 2013

LAWT News Service


The National Association of Minority Contractors-Southern Cali­fornia Chapter (NAMCSC) will host its 14th Annual Awards Ceremony, Friday, October 18, at the Doubletree Hotel, 6161 W Centinela in Culver City.  The evening begins at 6:30pm with a reception, followed by dinner and live entertainment. “Leverag­ing Relationships for Boundless Op­portunities” the theme this year, pays tribute to the men, women and companies or organizations that continue to blaze trails and expand the mission and goals of NAMCSC.

The 2013 Honorees are: Deborah Dyson-Minority Contractor of the Year, CEO, Dyson Electric;  Sherman Gay, Ph.D–Minority Business Advocate, Business Outreach Officer, MTA; Turner Construction-Major Corporate Partner; Lily Otieno-Spirit Award, CEO, Infinity Business Solutions; Nolan V. Rollins-Visionary Award, President & Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles Urban League. 

In June 2013, The National Association of Minority Contractors of Southern California (NAMCSC) was recognized as "Best in Nation" by the National Chapter of the organization, during the 44th Annual National Conference held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

The “Best in Nation” Award also recognized the Southern California Chapter for their exemplary efforts in the development and execution of quality, meaningful programs such as their provocative educational series entitled, "Teaming: Leveraging Big Brother Alliances for Breaking into New Markets," and for building strong strategic relationships with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Black Business Association of Los Angeles, the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the Small Business Administration and the Minority Business Development Agency, among others. 

Over 300 large and small contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, state and local government agencies and industry professionals are expected at this year’s dinner.  Proceeds from the event support the organization’s education and advocacy programs—including construction industry-related scholarships—which strengthen the competitiveness of the minority contractor. 

Parent Category: News
Category: Business

October 10, 2013

LAWT News Service


October 28th marks the first time a partnership between the Los Angeles Sentinel, the Crenshaw Leadership Council and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), has resulted in an unprecedented Business Summit, focused on opportunities that come with a $2 Billion investment of public funds in South Los Angeles.  The Metro to Crenshaw/LAX Business Oppor­tunities Summit will feature the Diversity and Economic Oppor­tunity Department (DEOD).  Metro’s CEO, Art Leahy, has entrusted leadership of DEOD to a woman with years of experience and measurable success, Ms. Linda B Wright, Executive Officer.  Ms. Wright is responsible for providing resources and support to minority and women owned small businesses that want to do business with Metro.

Ms. Wright said the upcoming Business Summit will give Metro an opportunity to educate and inform local small and minority owned businesses about the broad range of opportunities and most importantly how to take advantage of these opportunities.

Ms. Wright has a passion for helping small business owners ­succeed and her time at Metro has given her an opportunity to make sure millions of dollars in government contracts have been awarded to small, women and minority owned businesses in Southern California.  “The Business Summit is going to be an important event for the community and I cannot stress the importance of signing up early to attend,” said Ms. Wright.

Ms. Wright came to Metro after years of running her own small business, verifying Labor Compliance, which means making sure that employees were being paid prevailing wages for their work. That experience has made her especially sensitive to the needs of small and women owned business.  When asked about the secret to her success at Metro, Ms. Wright’s answer is simple. “I rely on a staff of dedicated ‘super-stars,’ who work tirelessly to find, nurture and grow SBE/MBE businesses.” My team goes to great lengths to see to it that any opportunity at Metro is broadcast to our target community, whether by hosting events, speaking at small group meetings, or calling potential SBE/MBE firms to make sure they are aware that an opportunity has arisen.

“The small, women and minority owned businesses in our region have continued to grow in sophistication and have increased their capability to be competitive on Metro and other projects.  I am proud to say that in the last year, over $21 million in DBE Commitments and $5.7 million in SBE Commitments has helped grow fledgling businesses into solid and powerful businesses, with the help of DEOD.” Through outreach and informational activities sponsored by Metro, the community is learning how to tread the path to robust partnerships among each other and with larger firms.  Through the Transporta­tion Business Advisory Council (TBAC), Meet the Buyers, Meet the Primes and smaller events, DEOD has become known as a major resource for business accessibility.

The Metro to Crenshaw/LAX Business Opportunity Summit marks the first time Metro will take key business units directly to South Los Angeles in an effort to match business and economic opportunities between Metro and small and minority owned businesses in the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Trans­portation Corridor.  The DEOD team will be there to answer questions about certification, procurement and more.  To Register for the Business Summit occurring at the California African American Museum on Monday, October 28th please visit www.metrosummitla.com.

Parent Category: News
Category: Business

October 03, 2013

City News Service


The National Newspaper Pub­lishers Association (NNPA), a federation of nearly 200 Black newspapers, named Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ind.) and NAACP Board Chairwoman Rosyln M. Brock as recipients of is 2012 Leader­ship Awards.

The presentations were made during the CBC Foundation’s annual Legislative Conference, also known as CBC Weekend.

Fudge is a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, where she is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Department Op­erations, Oversight and Nutrition. She also serves on the Education and Workforce Committee and is a member of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.

Prior to joining Congress, Fudge worked in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. She also was the first Black and the first female mayor of Warrrensville Heights, Ohio. She is past national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Brock was unanimously elected chair of the NAACP Board of Directors in 2010, becoming the youngest person and only the fourth woman to hold the position. She graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Union University, earned a master’s degree in health services administration from George Wash­ington University, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a Masters Degree of Divinity from Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.

An advocate for affordable health care for vulnerable communities, she is Vice President, Advocacy and Government for Bon Secours Health System, Inc.

Parent Category: News
Category: Business

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