CHICAGO – An enthusiastic crowd of young trade unionists and allies from more than 40 states and Puerto Rico cheered as Danny Glover came on stage Mar. 19 at the AFL-CIO’s 2015 Next Up Summit here.
Glover, who has been a leader in the struggle of Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi to win union representation, spoke passionately to the young trade unionists here about the struggle in Mississippi.
He spoke of how Nissan has been willing to do almost anything to stop the union – from the hiring of large numbers of high-turnover temporary workers to the giving out misinformation and intimidating workers when they try to organize.
Glover, a member of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and an activist since his college days at San Francisco State University, has been involved over the years in numerous battles for civil rights, worker rights, and student rights.
Glover quoted Paul Robeson on the importance of the role of youth in struggle: “Each generation makes its own history and is judged by the history that they make.” He stressed how vital the youth are to the movement today, saying, “We need your voices here more than ever.”
At Nissan, he noted, a coalition of workers, students and civil rights leaders have been building a movement for civil and workers rights. “It reminds me of Freedom Summer,” he said. Freedom Summer was the historic campaign in 1964 to register black voters in Mississippi.
Glover reminded the young trade unionists about the ability of youth to shift entire movements. “They came down specifically to Mississippi and changed the whole temperature of the civil rights movement. That is what young people do.”
A coalition of workers, students and civil rights leaders have been organizing a union for the right have a say on health, safety and to end the abuse of workers at their plant in Mississippi, Glover said.
Glover criticized Nissan for trying to build what he called “a temporary economy” within which temp workers are employed to cut costs even though they do the same work as full time workers – basically for half the wages.
He castigated the company for the tactics it uses against union organizers.
“They use threats and intimidation, that’s what they’ve done. Threaten plant closure if workers organize. Targeting union members, blaming UAW for the collapse of the auto industry. Telling workers they can’t be pro-Nissan and pro-union. These are the lies they’ve perpetuated,” he said.
He said the company is being hypocritical when it says that to stay competitive it cannot afford a unionized plant in Mississippi, explaining how in Japan, France, Britain and South Africa Nissan has recognized the right of workers to have a voice on their job.
If they can work with unions there, he said, there is no excuse for Nissan to refuse to recognize the right of its workers in Mississippi to organize a union.
Photo: Next Up Facebook page