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UAW stakes future on union vote in Deep South

The UAW union has targeted the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., as a key piece in its strategy to bolster its ranks.
The UAW union has targeted the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., as a key piece in its strategy to bolster its ranks.James Patterson/The New York Times

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CANTON, Miss. — The United Auto Workers, desperate to make inroads in the anti-union South where Toyota, Volkswagen, and other foreign automakers have assembly plants, has never tried a unionization drive quite like the one at the Nissan plant here.

It has enlisted thousands of union members in Brazil to picket Nissan dealerships there as the company prepares to co-sponsor the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The union has sent a team of Mississippi ministers and workers to South Africa, where Nissan has an assembly plant, to try to embarrass the company with accusations that it violates workers’ rights at the Canton plant.

Over the next few weeks, a delegation of UAW leaders and supporters will go to Tokyo and Paris, the headquarters of Renault, Nissan’s partner, to publicize a report by a Cornell University professor that asserts Nissan’s managers have illegally threatened to close the Mississippi plant if workers vote to unionize.

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