Actor Danny Glover joins Concerned Students for a Better Nissan’s College tour on July 30, 2013, in Smyrna, Tenn. (TMP Photo/W. Moore Jr.)
Concerned Students for a Better Nissan College Tour brought actor Danny Glover and its message to Smyrna in late July.
Glover teamed up with the Student Justice Alliance and held a press conference to discuss the growing number of temporary workers at Nissan North America and what the group claims are unfair work conditions.
“This is not just an issue for Smyrna, Tenn., or Canton, Miss., it’s a problem that exists across the world,” said Glover, who is best known for his roles in the “Lethal Weapon” movie franchise and “The Color Purple.”
“All labor has dignity says Dr. King and the best answer is a union,” he said in reference to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A number of people showed up to give their support to the cause, including state Rep. Sherry Jones and Wade Munday, a board member of the Tennessee Citizens Action.
Wade had a very interesting question for Nissan, “Plans aren’t temporary, dreams aren’t temporary and a family isn’t temporary, so why are jobs?”
To support their calls to action, the Concerned Students for a Better Nissan and the Student Justice Alliance devised a survey to gather information about workers’ health and safety experiences.
Organizers say they plan to go on a tour of historically black colleges and universities, as well as car shows, dealerships and community forums and disseminate this information to help spread the word and open peoples eyes to a big issue that is not only present here in the U.S. but around the world.
The majority of employees are temporary workers, but there’s no difference in the work done by regular Nissan workers. Temporary workers receive lower pay, fewer to no benefits, and job security is virtually nonexistent, the group alleged.
In response to the group’s accusations, Nissan’s Communications Manager Justin Saia said they “are simply false.”
“Nissan views all of the jobs at our plants as long-term, stable positions,” Saia said, adding employees are paid competitively and given competitive benefits, “which includes everything from health care to recognition payments.”
Nissan can’t afford to pay temporary workers less because the industry is highly competitive, especially in Tennessee with automotive manufacturing plants ranging from Volkswagen in Chattanooga to General Motors in Spring Hill and automotive suppliers dotting the landscape of the state.
“This business model allows us to compete globally and expand our operations in the U.S. with more than 6,000 manufacturing jobs having been added since mid-2011; more than 3,000 of those being in Smyrna,” he said.
Members of Concerned Students for a Better Nissan said it doesn’t matter how many jobs Nissan brings to Tennessee if job security is a growing concern for many workers.
Nissan is a Japanese-owned company, so many at the press conference said they feel it is unconstitutional for a foreign company to come onto United States soil and treat American laborers unfairly.
The coalition of activitsts said temporary workers for Nissan from Tennessee and Mississippi are tired of the intimidation and bullying that goes behind closed doors in Nissan’s plants.
Glover, who is better known for his acting than his activism, has just recently joined the movement. Glover said he plans to help Nissan workers’ voice resonate and be heard.
Steve Ferguson, a temporary worker at Nissan, agreed.
“This is America,” Ferguson said. “We have free speech, why not in the plant?”
Ferguson also said that the temporary workers are encouraged to not speak their minds.
Saia, on the other hand, said Nissan treats its employees very well and does not discourage them from dicussing issues or organizing.
“The accusations being made against Nissan and the treatment of its employees are simply false, as Nissan does not tolerate employee intimidation,” he said. “Nissan employees enjoy jobs that are among the most secure in Tennessee and offer some of the highest manufacturing wages in the state, strong benefits, a working environment that exceeds industry standards and an open dialogue based on transparency and mutual respect.”