UAW meets with Nissan Tennessee workers about organizing

Workers from the Nissan Motor Co auto plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, met on Tuesday with United Auto Workers union representatives to discuss another organizing effort at the Japanese automaker's first U.S. factory.

The UAW is now active in trying to organize workers at two Nissan plants. The UAW since last spring has been talking with workers at Nissan's other major U.S. assembly plant, in Canton, Mississippi, outside of Jackson.

Two Tuesday meetings in a hall owned by the Town of Smyrna included employees of Yates Services, the firm that hires workers for the plant who are paid less than Nissan workers, according to UAW officials.

The "information" meetings are an early step in bringing about a vote among workers at the Nissan plant in Smyrna. Most union elections are held once a majority of workers agree to allow one. Many union organizing efforts fail before a vote is held.

"Ultimately, the choice of who represents the employees is theirs to make," said Nissan spokesman Justin P. Saia.

The Tennessean newspaper based in Nashville first reported the Tuesday meetings.

There is no schedule for a vote in Canton at this time, either, the UAW said, but union officials said they are making progress toward convincing workers to allow a vote.

The UAW has been unsuccessful in more than three decades of trying to organize a foreign automaker with a plant, most of which are in Southern states. Doing so is key to the future of the union, UAW President Bob King has said.

The meetings in Smyrna attracted several hundred workers of Nissan and of Yates Services, said the UAW's top official in the U.S. South, Gary Casteel, who did not attend either of two meetings held on Tuesday.

The meetings were the biggest for the UAW in Smyrna since 2001, Casteel said.

While there has never been an election on whether to allow union representation at Nissan's Mississippi plant, workers in Smyrna have twice overwhelmingly voted against joining the UAW.

A 1989 vote was 1,622 to 711.

In 2001, in an organizing drive led by King when he was the union's chief organizer, Nissan workers rejected the UAW by a 2-to-1 margin.

After the 2001 vote, King said Nissan had "won round two" and said that "there will be round three and four."

(Reporting By Bernie Woodall; Editing by Bernard Orr)