Unite deputy convenor for Bentley in Crewe, who was also part of an IndustriALL delegation to the US, shares his experience below.
A year ago this week, a small delegation of trade unionists from seven countries across the globe met in Jackson, Mississippi, to discuss the ongoing harassment and bullying of Nissan workers in the nearby automotive plant in Canton and their struggles in organising themselves under leadership of the UAW.
They say a week is a long time in politics, but how long is a year in trade union recognition?
Well, a year on, virtually to the day we have found out a little more.
Thanks to White House Live and the Obama administration, a “Workers Voice” summit on labour rights and unions was organized, streaming information live to the world on America’s issues relating to workers, unions and business needs.
Robert Hathorn, a temporary worker from the Nissan Plant in Canton, was last on the panel to speak. He was by no means least.
Showing no sign of nerves, Robert detailed how he has moved from being a “Kelly’s Services” temporary worker through Nissan’s pathway to a permanent position with the company.
From my experience last year this is no mean feat on its own. The sticking point was that his pay does not reflect that of a current permanent employee. It never will.
It is just not right that a Kelly’s worker has to work a 70 hour week to earn what a permanent Nissan employee earns in 40. Why is it that Robert is worth less than the next man or woman?
Greed from Nissan and other companies has led to the increase in temporary and subcontract work across the States, and others on the panel told countless stories of incredible retaliation against attempts to organise.
Disappointing as it is to see that not too much has changed in Canton, this event can only be force for good, as it highlights Nissan’s hard line in recognising unions in the US and shows they have some well-educated, decent people working for them.
Robert’s mere presence itself was described by the host of the event as “a great act of courage”.
When workers have a meaningful voice, we all have shared prosperity was a basic value shared by many at the event, as was the idea that when you invest in human capital we all succeed — sage words not just for the US but the world over.
In support of their continued struggles in Canton, a line from the Lord’s Prayer has been adapted by the workers — “Lead us not into temp-nation”.
Be warned Nissan.