The UAW hoped to steal some of Nissan Motor Co.'s limelight at the Geneva auto show today by holding a press conference there to accuse Nissan of mistreating its nonunion U.S. factory workers.
The message might not reverberate with international media focused on sports cars and European luxury models. But the event underscored how the union intends to hound Nissan at international venues.
"We want Nissan to stop intimidating workers from speaking in support of a union. Nissan should give equal time in the workplace for workers to hear the union side of why unions might benefit us so we can have a union vote free of fear and intimidation from the company," Mississippi Nissan worker Willard "Chip" Wells said in a statement.
"Nissan recognizes unions in its plants in countries all over the world, but they prevent it in Mississippi. We don't want to be treated like second-class citizens in our own country anymore."
Today's press conference required the union to transport a UAW staff contingent, Mississippi organizers and a small number of Canton, Miss., employees to Switzerland to discuss Nissan's nonunion U.S. operations.
A Nissan spokesperson had no comment on Tuesday when asked about the UAW's plans.
The UAW is campaigning to unionize Nissan's 5,000-worker assembly plant in Canton, where it builds multiple models. The union also recently met with workers at Nissan's U.S. plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
The organizers already have reached into the glittering world of auto shows once this season to air their fight with Nissan. The UAW picketed during the Detroit show in January.
The union contends Nissan is attempting to intimidate its Canton employees into shying away from an organizing vote. Nissan maintains that it has an exemplary record in treating workers fairly.
The UAW has failed in two previous attempts to organize Nissan's U.S. workers.