Danny Glover and Bernie Sanders seek France's help after Nissan union vote

Guardian Web |

The actor Danny Glover and Senator Bernie Sanders are preparing to lobby the French government for help in the heated attempt to unionize a Nissan car plant in Mississippi.

The United Auto Workers suffered a historic defeat of the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, this month after a long campaign marred by allegations of bribery and intimidation.

Nissan and France’s Renault share a deep alliance, with each company owning shares in the other and sharing a chief executive officer, Carlos Ghosn. The French government owns a close to 20% stake in Renault.

Related: 'Nissan, you made us mad': union promises to fight Mississippi defeat

Glover, most famous for roles in the Lethal Weapon series and The Color Purple, is a longtime activist and supporter of the UAW and its fight to unionize in the US south. He and Sanders intend to lobby the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to push for a second vote.

“He would protect the rights of workers in France with respect to Nissan,” Glover told the Guardian. “He would protect the rights for those workers, so why wouldn’t he protect the rights of workers in the United States, as well as particularly in the south?”

Nissan operates 45 auto plants around the globe. The only ones without union representation are in the southern US.

Glover has traveled multiple times with Nissan workers to meet with members of the French parliament. He says he is prepared to travel all over the world to lead a global campaign to put pressure on Nissan.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed charges against Nissan, accusing the company of bribery and intimidation during the ballot. Company managers held one-on-one meetings with workers to press for a no vote.

Glover said it was time for Macron to speak up. “Will he stand up and look us in the eye and tell us the truth that this was an unfair situation for workers, that this was an unfair election?” said Glover.

The French government has previously spoken out against corporate practices at the car firm. Last May, Macron, then France’s economy minister, criticised Ghosn’s €7.3m ($8.6m) pay package, blaming “dysfunctional governance” and calling for the company to show more restraint over pay.

In 2016, one of Macron’s deputies, the French labor minister, Myriam El Khomri, co-signed a letter with Tom Perez, then the Democratic US labor secretary, calling on Renault Nissan to ensure a fair election in Mississippi.

But Macron has remained silent on the Nissan vote since his election.

“I really haven’t seen France do anything on this campaign, and this is their factory,” said the Nissan workers union activist Morris Mock.

After a recent visit to Canton, Mississippi, the Renault union leader Fabien Gauche, of the labor federation CGT, told Ouest France : “There are pressures and intimidation efforts that we can’t imagine in France.”

Related: Nissan dispute could go down as most vicious anti-union crusade in decades | Bernie Sanders

Gauche said that he had raised the allegations with Nissan, but they have ignored them.

“There is a complete denial of the situation,” Gauche told Ouest France. “They respond to us saying the accounts we’re hearing from workers are false... For management, everything’s happening in the best of all worlds.”

French members of parliament are now beginning to raise questions and are calling on Renault Nissan to hold a new election.

“We solemnly call on the president of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to show the value of France’s attachment to union rights and freedoms, here and everywhere else across the world, to demand Carlos Ghosn respect union rights and allow for elections to take place in a climate of neutrality,” wrote the French national assembly member Christian Hutin in a joint op-ed with the European parliament member Virginie Roziere in the daily Liberation.

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