Nissan Technicians Can Vote on Union, NLRB Rules

A vehicle on the Nissan production line
A vehicle on the production line during final inspections at the Nissan Motor Co. manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tenn. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

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A group of around 86 Nissan North America Inc. technicians at a Tennessee manufacturing plant can vote on unionization, the U.S. labor board ruled, rejecting the company’s argument that any union election should include thousands more employees.

The tool and die technicians “are highly skilled,” “have separate supervision” and are performing functions that are distinct from their co-workers, a panel of three Democratic members of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board wrote in their Feb. 2 ruling, which overturned a decision by a regional director of the agency.

The ruling clears the way for workers at the Nissan Motor Co. facility, in Smyrna, Tenn., to vote on whether to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, commonly known as the Machinists. Organized labor has struggled to establish footholds at foreign automakers’ U.S. plants. Workers at a Mississippi Nissan plant voted against joining the United Auto Workers in 2017.

The NLRB’s general counsel issued a complaint in 2017 accusing Nissan of making anti-union threats at that Mississippi facility, including threatening to shut down the plant if workers unionized. Nissan denied wrongdoing in that case, which was settled in 2018.

“While we do not agree with the board’s position, our history reflects that we respect the right of employees to determine who should represent their interests in the workplace,” a Nissan spokesperson said in a statement.

The union did not immediately provide comment.

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