The Corner

Nissan Employees in New Jersey Decertify UAW

A person wearing a T-shirt that has “UAW member” written on it is pictured, in Chattanooga, Tenn., April 19, 2024. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

Conservatives should not be intimidated by the coordinated PR campaign portraying the UAW as on the rise.

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While the press was celebrating the United Auto Workers union’s win in a representation election at Volkswagen in Tennessee, it mostly ignored that other workers already represented by the UAW were in the process of voting the union out. A majority of Nissan employees at the company’s facility in Somerset, N.J., petitioned to decertify the UAW in early April, and the election was held on April 24.

We now know the results, and it wasn’t close. Of the 60 employees represented by the UAW, 37 voted against the union, and only 17 voted for it. The UAW tried to woo the Nissan workers by ratifying a new labor contract in the weeks between the decertification petition and the election, but it appears the contract did little to change workers’ minds. These workers had been represented by the UAW for four years — plenty of time to decide whether they thought they were getting their money’s worth for their membership.

You wouldn’t know it from the wall-to-wall positive media coverage, but the Nissan workers are actually more representative of national trends than the VW workers are. UAW membership declined last year to 370,000. It was nearly 400,000 in 2020, and it peaked at 1.5 million in 1970. The UAW has far more retired members than active members, and roughly the same number work for the University of California system as work for General Motors. The overall union membership rate in the U.S. last year was a record-low 10 percent, and it was only 6 percent in the private sector.

In 2023, unions lost 110 decertification elections and won only 65. Despite constant talk of a union “resurgence” under the Biden administration, the number of decertification petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board has increased from 240 in 2021 to 306 in 2023. To make it more difficult to decertify unions, Biden appointees to the NLRB have supported efforts to allow unionization through “card check” rather than secret ballot. The Nissan workers voted for decertification in a secret-ballot election.

As the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which supported the Nissan workers’ efforts, noted, this decertification vote is especially significant because New Jersey is not a right-to-work state. The Nissan contract required workers to pay dues to the UAW if they wanted to keep their jobs. Now, with the union decertified, workers will be able to spend that money as they see fit.

Conservatives should not be intimidated by the coordinated public-relations campaign portraying the UAW as on the rise. It is a corrupt, declining organization that uses workers’ dues to support the progressive political agenda, and conservatives should stand with workers, like those at Nissan in New Jersey, who want to free themselves from it.

Dominic Pino is the Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow at National Review Institute.
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