UAW chief: U.S. Nissan workers would vote for union right now

DETROIT (Reuters) - The president of the United Auto Workers said on Thursday he feels "very strongly" that workers at Nissan Motor Co Ltd's 7201.T plant in Canton, Mississippi, would support union representation if they voted now, but added that reports of intimidation by the automaker could change that. "A campaign can change from day to day and this will depend on employees at the plant," UAW President Dennis Williams said at a news conference in Detroit.

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams at a press briefing in Detroit, Michigan, May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Joseph White

“But we felt very strongly that the time for us was now.”

Workers at the Nissan plant are due to vote on union representation in early August.

This is a high-stakes moment for the UAW as the union once again seeks a major foothold after decades of failed attempts.

“This is major for us,” Williams said of the vote.

Between 3,500 and 3,800 workers could be eligible to participate in the vote, he said.

The union’s president reiterated that the UAW has heard a number of reports claiming that Nissan has threatened workers that the automaker will close the plant if they vote in favor of union representation.

Nissan rejected those claims in a statement on Thursday.

“Allegations of intimidation made by the union are totally false,” the company said. “Nissan respects and values the Canton workforce, and our history reflects that we recognize the employees’ rights to decide for themselves whether or not to have third-party representation.”

Williams also said he has met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to discuss the Trump administration’s efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Editing by Franklin Paul and Matthew Lewis