UAW seeks U.S. State Dept. help in Mississippi spat with Nissan

DETROIT, April 28 Mon Apr 28, 2014 6:03pm EDT

DETROIT, April 28 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers has aligned with the IndustriALL Global Union in asking the U.S. State Department for help in pressing its claims that Nissan Motor Co Ltd is violating worker organizing rights in Mississippi.

The UAW has been trying for several years to organize the Nissan plant near Jackson, and says the company is using "threats, intimidation and fear" to keep the union out of the plant, which it says violates guidelines of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The American union wants to employ a part of the State Department, the National Contact Point, to mediate between the unions and Nissan, which has an alliance with French-based Renault SA.

Arthur Schwartz, a labor adviser based in Michigan, said he was not sure the effort will result in much for the UAW, mainly because the OECD has little power to enforce its guidelines.

"I've never heard of this happening before," said Schwartz of the State Department mediating a labor dispute involving the UAW, "and I've never heard that the OECD had any teeth."

Nissan spokesman Justin Saia said the company "respects the labor laws of every country in which we operate" and that each employee is able to decide whether or not to join a union.

"It would be premature to comment on mediation given that the State Department has not yet evaluated the submission and the UAW already has compromised confidentiality provisions of the OECD guidelines," Saia said.

There are about 5,600 employees, including full-time and contract workers, at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.

The IndustriALL union, founded two years ago, attempts to foster cross-border cooperation among unions that represent or seek to represent workers at companies with global reach, such as Nissan. UAW President Bob King in his four-year tenure as head of the U.S. union has sought international help several times in organizing foreign-owned auto plants in the United States.

At the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, King employed the help of the influential German union IG Metall in gaining an agreement with VW not to fight the union as it tried to organize workers there. The UAW lost an election to represent Chattanooga workers in February by 712 to 626 votes. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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