“They think they can beat you guys up,” U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is seen saying in a video in response to concerns some Canton Nissan workers shared during a Feb. 16 meeting in Washington, D.C. “What you’re doing is courageous. It is enormously important. It impacts not only workers in that Nissan plant. If you win (a union vote), I think it’s going to be a spark probably all over the state, maybe all over the South, maybe all over the country.”
One of Nissan’s first Canton employees, Chip Wells, told Sanders the harassment he received in response to taking his pro-union views public was so extreme — he described being targeted for unreasonable discipline — the stress caused him to take medical leave. When his physician cleared him, though, Nissan wouldn’t let him return, he said. Wells’ story is just one of many that some employees say illustrates a culture of distrust at Nissan, where supporters of unionizing efforts say workers have little voice and little of their superiors’ respect.
Wells ultimately filed an unfair labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, and Nissan settled in 2014.
Of course, Nissan also has supporters in its Canton workforce. Helelaine Osbourne, who’s worked at Nissan 14 years in pre-delivery, said it’s supporters of the United Auto Workers union, not Nissan, who is intimidating workers. She said her supervisors are responsive to any concerns, and she doesn’t feel the need for additional representation.
“I’m already treated very well, so, really and truly, I can’t see (UAW) offering me anything,” Osbourne said. “The union don’t care for us. They’re just looking for people to line their pockets.”