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Nissan Welcomes Showdown With UAW

May 19, 1989

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The United Auto Workers on Thursday requested a vote on collective bargaining at Nissan’s Smyrna plant, where management complained the union was conducting a drawn-out organizing campaign.

″We’ve already told our day-shift employees through the use of a video that the petition has been filed, that it’s of no particular surprise to us, and that we’re glad to put this issue behind us,″ said Gail O. Neuman, Nissan Motor Manufacturing Co.’s vice president of human resources.

The UAW filed the petition with the National Labor Relations Board, asking it to authorize 2,400 production workers to vote whether they wish to be represented.

″The in-plant organizing committee feels the time is right. They feel the enthusiasm inside the plant for the union is high,″ union spokesman Maxey Irwin said.

″I feel confident that the union will be soundly defeated,″ Ms. Neuman said. ″The vast majority of our employees tell us they have no interest in paying $850,000 a year in dues. Our communication’s open, and they like that.″

Nissan employees who oppose the union picketed outside the factory gates with signs saying ″UAW Go Home,″ American flags and at least one T-shirt that said ″Nissan - Love it or leave it.″

Ms. Neuman said the union’s card-signing campaign began more than 16 months ago, and talk about the matter began years before that.

″We feel that the UAW has had more than enough time to present its case to our employees. The time has come to let our employees speak through a secret ballot election,″ she said in a statement.

Should the NLRB agree to allow the election, it would be the first such vote at Nissan’s only U.S. factory. The Japanese company began producing pickup trucks in 1983 and now also produces Sentra cars at the plant about 25 miles southeast of Nashville.

Nissan said last month it will add 2,000 jobs and boost annual production to 440,000 cars and light pickup trucks a year. The company says that would make the Smyrna plant the nation’s largest automobile production factory by 1992.

NLRB procedure calls for it to comment only once it verifies whether 30 percent of the workers signed cards for union representation, said Wayne Barksdale, the board’s officer in Nashville.

He said the NLRB could hold a hearing within two weeks with the company and the union to work out details of a vote.

Irwin says the company has pushed production speeds, causing injuries. Nissan says its health and safety record is better than most automotive companies in the United States.

The company says workers are happy with salaries that range from $12.55 to $17.19 an hour and benefits that equal those of UAW-organized auto plants.

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