It was better when we first started. If I or any other worker at the Nissan plant in Canton had a workplace issue, we could discuss it with our manager and eventually it would be resolved. But along the way, things began to change. Our concerns don’t matter. We’re treated like second-class citizens.
That, in a nutshell, is why I support union representation at the Nissan plant. After working there for 13 years, I see no other way to guarantee that the workers have a voice. The need for a union became apparent to us as a direct result of changes that made it harder for us to do our jobs and to ensure our own health and safety.
Big corporations like Nissan like to talk about their commitment to diversity as a way to expand their appeal and win over younger consumers. Nissan markets itself as a socially responsible carmaker and recently celebrated the fact that its Altima model was the top-selling car among black consumers for 2016. But what about the workers who build those cars in Canton, the majority of whom are also black? There are plenty of white workers in the same boat with us, but black workers are acutely aware of the fact that worker rights are also civil rights. We know firsthand what it’s like to be exploited.
I recently spoke with a manager at a Nissan dealership during a protest to call attention to worker problems at the plant, and I told him, “Knowledge is everything. As an auto dealer buying from this plant, you have invested in this company. Don’t you want to know what you’re investing in, just like you’d want to know if you were selling products that were made in a sweatshop?”
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