By Sahid Fawaz
The South has long been a challenge for unions, as more auto companies move operations to the region.
Now another battle is about to begin in Mississippi.
"The United Auto Workers filed petitions Monday to force a unionization election at a Nissan plant in Mississippi after a yearslong campaign to build support in a region typically unwelcoming to organized labor.
The UAW declined comment but has scheduled an event Tuesday at its office near the plant in Canton, just north of Jackson. Sandra Hightower of the National Labor Relations Board confirmed that the board received the UAW's election petition in its New Orleans office.
The union has long struggled to organize foreign-owned auto plants across the South, working for years to build support for a vote among the 6,500 employees at the Mississippi complex. Monday's move sets the stage for a key showdown.
Nissan Motor Co. spokeswoman Parul Bajaj reiterated the company's stance that workers get to choose whether they have a union but management opposes the move.
'While it is ultimately up to our employees who will represent them, we do not believe that UAW representation is in the best interest of Nissan Canton and its workers,' Bajaj said.
The UAW and community allies also have pushed Nissan to stay neutral in a vote, claiming the company has intimidated workers. The labor board has backed some of those claims in pending litigation.
UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel told AP in an April phone interview that the union didn't want to go forward in a situation where Nissan was violating labor laws to intimidate workers but said the decision on when to move ahead was ultimately a 'balancing act.'
The pro-union campaign has sought to link support for the union with civil rights for African-Americans. Workers at Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, rejected the UAW in 1989 and 2001 votes, but no election has been held at the Mississippi plant in Canton. The Mississippi campaign has featured support from the NAACP and actor Danny Glover, as well as a rally in March headlined by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and former Democratic presidential candidate.
'We see organized labor as a mechanism to give workers and African-Americans a voice around their quality of life,' said Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi branch of the NAACP."
For more on this development, check out the rest of the ABC News story here.