This weekend’s events call upon us all to speak out boldly against white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism in all forms. Racism, anti-Semitism, hatred, and fear should have no home in America.
We grieve for the lives lost and pray for those critically injured because of the domestic terrorism committed in Charlottesville. Jobs With Justice condemns hatred, bigotry, and violence against our friends and neighbors. Our hearts pour out to everyone in the Charlottesville community and those watching around the country traumatized by witnessing such barbaric acts of racism.
We recognize the progress achieved as communities finally remove the white supremacist monuments that stain our country. When tearing down symbols of hate sparks such vitriolic backlash, the work to fully dismantle racism from our society is far from over. Our nation needs more healing, unifying, and transformation to live up to our values of respect, equality, diversity, and freedom.
Working people know that standing shoulder to shoulder together makes us stronger as a people and as a nation. Jobs With Justice is committed to advancing racial justice as doing so is fundamental to working people uniting to create better workplaces and a more inclusive economy.
The Jobs With Justice network is called upon to combat the violent and exclusionary systems of white nationalism and white supremacy smoldering in our communities and institutions more than ever. We demand a future full of love, equity, diversity, peace, safety, and opportunity. It is up to us to build the America that we and our future generations deserve.
Under the Hood of Nissan’s Campaign to Stop Thousands in Mississippi from Earning a Fair Return on their Work
It’s devastating news that working people at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi plant lost their fight to come together in union with United Automobile Workers (UAW). The automaker’s extreme actions robbed its employees of a free and fair vote, and it’s not possible to accept the results at face value.
Last month, Nissan’s autoworkers in Canton decided they wanted to vote and have a say over their working conditions. They were motivated to innovate where Nissan failed to, seeking the safe, healthy, and dynamic workplace the profitable company promised when it opened the plant 15 years ago.
Fed up with unsustainable wages, mounting workplace safety concerns, permatemp jobs, and punishing shifts, the men and women building Nissan’s cars saw a real opportunity for change. Twina Scott, who has worked for Nissan for 14 years, believed she and her co-workers could solve these problems by coming together in union. “What I know is we need a voice in that plant,” the mother of two said.
Twina and her teammates called on their employer to “Do Better.” Instead, Nissan launched an all-out attack on those who dared to stand up for the right to earn a fair return on their work.
According to employee reports, and complaints from federal authorities, the auto giant threatened, coerced, and retaliated against those who supported joining in union. Nissan issued salacious claims that a union would lower wages, harm benefits, or even cost jobs. Managers screened anti-union videos on a continuous loop in plant breakrooms and pulled individuals into intimidating meetings to pressure them to vote against their own interest. The company even fired one person for wearing a pro-union T-shirt, while supervisors wore anti-union shirts to work.
Operating in a state scarred by slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the struggle for civil rights, Nissan has a shameful record of oppressing its predominantly African-American workforce and suppressing their votes. It’s no accident that the Canton plant is one of only three Nissan facilities in the world where the corporation resists working people negotiating over the terms of their work. During the most recent presidential election, managers told some employees they could not make any accommodations for them to vote if they were scheduled for 12-hour shifts that conflicted with voting hours.
The New York Times referred to the union election as “racially charged.” African Americans working for Nissan say the company rewarded white employees with promotions, and outside the plant, race baiters used propaganda to sway votes. White supremacist groups distributed a racist anti-union flyer urging people to vote against joining in union.
History is not lost on this moment. Yesterday marked the 52nd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. The federal government prohibited discrimination in voting a century after the abolishment of slavery. It tamped down on laws in southern states designed to suppress the civil rights of African Americans and the poor. Nissan depriving thousands of southern, Black Americans of their freedom to vote and take part in democracy is an affront to all those who devoted their lives in the fight for voting rights in this country.
“American workers need champions more than ever,” said UAW President Dennis Williams. “The workers of Nissan deserve to have the job security, safe working conditions, and collective bargaining power that come only from belonging to a union. Despite the setback, working people of the UAW will continue to be on the frontlines of that fight for all workers.”
The men and women assembling cars in Canton cracked open the door to expose what corporations (like Nissan) in the Deep South still try to get away with. The arc of justice is a long road, and at the end, working people can and will win the freedom to transform their jobs, their lives, and their communities.
In early June, President Trump strolled up to a podium and announced his intention to expand the Labor Department’s apprenticeship program. Trump pontificated about the important role apprenticeships play in matching working people with job training opportunities. Giving credit where credit is due, Trump was right. However, Trump’s words do not match what’s included in his proposal. Apprenticeships require an appropriate level of government funding and oversight to ensure corporations put the interests of apprentices ahead of their profits. Apprenticeships, if operated well, have immense value for working people in a range of industries, including construction, manufacturing, and healthcare. Programs run jointly by unions of working people and employers allow people to earn quality wages, benefits, and a hands-on, debt-free education.
And yet Trump’s proposal fails greatly on those counts. Trump’s apprenticeship program could lead to increased exploitation of apprentices, halt progress for women and people of color to move into good careers in construction and other sectors where they are underrepresented, and harm the futures of working people setting their sights on a sustainable career path.
Trump’s Budget Threatens Diversity in Apprenticeships
One key reason the president’s words ring hollow is that his proposed budget takes a machete to the Labor Department’s job training and apprenticeship programs. Trump proposed . Elected officials of but the president believes he can fund 5 million apprenticeships. Simple math suggests those numbers do not add up.
Trump’s budget would harm efforts to achieving more diversity in access to apprenticeships, and thus more equality in sectors like construction, where women and racial minorities lack representation. He requested a 76 percent cutfrom the Women’s Bureau’s budget and eliminated 131 full-time jobs within the Office of Federal Contract Compliance. Historically, both divisions within the Labor Department promoted women, people of color, and veterans in apprenticeships to diversify the industry. . The Office of Federal Contract Compliance ensures federal contractors follow civil rights laws. If the federal government cannot hold federal contractors accountable, it opens the door for taxpayer-funded discrimination.
Apprenticeship Oversight and Funding Matter
Labor Department oversight ensures working people can access quality apprenticeships and that big corporations live up to their end of the bargain. Not only does Trump’s budget make that more challenging, but Trump also wants to allow big corporations to write the rules. New apprenticeships would be “industry certified” and would grant companies broad discretion for setting the benchmarks for what qualifies as quality standards. Many fear Trump’s proposal allows almost any company to create a registered apprenticeship with the federal government. As a result, taxpayer dollars could subsidize employers who offer apprentices low-wages and few educational opportunities.
Trump is set to axe a set wage schedule for apprentices. Currently, the Department of Labor mandates that apprenticeship programs eligible for government funding require that as apprentices gain new skills and work their way up the ladder, they earn more. While Trump’s program requires apprentices earn a wage for their work, it does not clarify if or when an apprentice receives a pay increase.
Apprenticeships can be Pathways to Stable Careers
Quality apprenticeships offer significant help to those looking for job training and a secure career. States and localities have made considerable progress in delivering on solid apprenticeship programs in recent years. Building Pathways is an example of an excellent municipal apprenticeship program, established as a partnership between local unions of working people, contractors, nonprofits, and the Housing Authority in Boston. Tyrell Ellis is one of many Building Pathways graduates who achieved stability at work and home. Before he joined Building Pathways, Tyrell struggled to make ends meet to raise his three daughters. Through Building Pathways, Tyrell secured an apprenticeship through the Sheet Metal Workers Local 17. Now he earns the income he needs to support his family.
At the state level, California’s apprenticeship program is a strong partnership between the state, industry, labor, and education. California’s design should serve as the standard for apprenticeship programs. Every registered program must meet minimum criteria, which the state monitors to ensure compliance. The 14-member California Apprenticeship Council oversees the program, which includes equal representation from businesses and advocates for working people. Nearly 64,000 Californians participate in apprenticeships in more than 560 registered programs.
How do we insist federal apprenticeship programs put working people first?
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta recently announced the creation of an apprenticeship taskforce. The taskforce will create a series of goals for the federal apprenticeship program and deliver its findings to President Trump. Securing a seat for working people on the taskforce is a first step to ensuring apprentices have a stake in the future of programs that impact their futures. We know apprenticeships help working people across the country. Let’s make sure federally-sponsored apprenticeships do too.
Multiculturalism is in high demand. The buying power of minorities continues to grow at an exponential rate. Corporations frequently boast of their workplace diversity and inclusion efforts. While companies jockey to attract people of color as employees and customers, they consistently fall short in implementing these practices in all areas of their business.
Nissan is one brand that appeals and markets heavily to minority populations but treats the ones who work for them poorly. The company was the number-one seller of cars among Black people in 2014. Nissan brags about the Altima earning recognition as the top-selling vehicle among African-American consumers. The automaker even hired a minority-focused ad agency to entice middle-class Blacks as potential buyers with a major ad campaign, titled “The Black Experience.”
But what is the Black Experience like for the people who work for Nissan and who assemble the Altima? The auto manufacturer fails its African-American workforce, refusing them a seat at the table to voice their concerns and gain a better workplace. Nissan negotiates with unions of working people in its plants around the globe, except in Mississippi and Tennessee — factories with predominantly Black employees. Approximately 80 percent of working people in the Canton, Mississippi plant are Black. These employees have accused Nissan of disrespectful and abusive treatment as they tried to come together to improve safety and conditions at their workplace.
In addition to trying to prevent Black employees from having a say over their jobs, Nissan brazenly advertises with Breitbart – the media company notorious for peddling white nationalist ideals and promoting candidates and officials who support policies that suppress the Black vote. In the last year, dozens of corporations have severed ties with the racist website. The automaker has yet to respond to a Color of Change petition signed by more than 10,000 Americans calling on them to stop financing the media group’s racist propaganda.
Uber is another company that promotes its services to people of color, but take a look under their ‘hood’, and it won’t take too long to find the popular ride-sharing company is lacking. Uber continually is under fire for scandals surrounding its controversial corporate culture, business, and labor practices. Yet the corporation has earned more of a halo effect for its track record in building a diverse workforce. A diversity report released this March revealed that the company leads the tech industry in hiring people of color.
Although Black people make up 8.8 percent of Uber’s 12,000 person corporate workforce, its Black consumers remain dissatisfied. Economists conducted a study of discrimination against users of ride-sharing apps and found “significant evidence of racial discrimination.” According to their findings, Uber’s consumers experienced the worst discrimination. ‘Black-sounding names’ resulted in a disproportionate amount of riders of color facing racial bias. Black Uber riders report experiencing more canceled rides, as well as extended wait times that other riders don’t have to endure. Black male Uber passengers faced canceled rates three times more than those of white male passengers.
Uber and Nissan woo communities of color to sell or endorse their products and services. Unfortunately, it seems the color they value most is that of money. As Maurice BP-Weeks, co-founder of The Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE), argues: “The way these companies operate is built on the extraction of wealth from people of color. It is not an afterthought, it is actually core to their business model.” We need to hold corporations accountable for their mistreatment of the very same minorities that they hope will buy their products and use their services. If these companies can respect our purchasing power, they should first respect the people of color who work so hard to keep them in business.