Sanders, Turner and Glover Joined by Thousands for #MarchOnMississippi
Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner, Danny Glover, Cornell Brooks and Chokwe Antar Lumumba say there isn’t a more important struggle than that of the Nissan workers, who have been engaged in a years-long campaign to join a union
JAISAL NOOR: Welcome to The Real News Network. We’re here in Mississippi where hundreds of workers, as you can see, are demanding Nissan allow its workers to form a union. Today Bernie Sanders, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, Cornell Brooks the head of the NAACP and actor and activist Danny Glover all spoke out in support of the workers. We spoke to them and asked them why they came to Mississippi.
BERNIE SANDERS: What matters most to the people is whether or not they’re going to have a decent standard of living; whether they can feed their kids; send their kids to college; have childcare; get some time off. And that’s what this struggle is about. It’s what workers here at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi are going to have dignity; are going to have decent wages and decent benefits. It’s very basic and at a time when the middle class of this country is shrinking, when so many people in my state, here, all over the world, all over this country are working longer hours for low wages. This is a fight that has to be engaged and has to be won.
JAISAL NOOR: Do you think this is a big enough priority right now for the Democratic Party as a whole? Or do you wish them to be out here with you?
BERNIE SANDERS: This is… what priority is more important than making sure that we expand the middle class, that people have decent wages, decent benefits, and decent healthcare? The Democratic Party has got to be in the middle of this struggle in Mississippi, in Vermont and all over this country.
JAISAL NOOR: We’ve reached out to Nissan. They said the allegations that the workers have made against them are untrue. They say they haven’t been trying to restrict the right to unionize and there are not unsafe working conditions. How do you respond to that? I know you met with some workers. How do you respond to that?
BERNIE SANDERS: Well, as I understand it, they were fined $20,000 because of unsafe working conditions. So, maybe that answers that question. And obviously, you know, they are going to say that they’re not trying to intimidate the workers. But I’ve talked to workers who have told me the very opposite and I think they know what their experience has been and what they have seen and heard with their own eyes and ears.
JAISAL NOOR: Why is it important for you to be here today?
NINA TURNER: To show solidarity for my sisters and brothers in Canton, Mississippi who are trying to organize at the Nissan plant. That their struggle that they’re having in Canton, Mississippi is our struggle in Cleveland, Ohio, or Canton, Ohio, or Flint, Michigan. That we are all inter-connected and that workers deserve better than what they’re getting right now.
JAISAL NOOR: And it said one of the reasons that foreign companies like Nissan, big corporations, they want to have factories in Mississippi because it’s a hostile place to unionize. You shared a story about a similar effort in Ohio. Talk about the lessons from Ohio in tackling these right-to-work laws and to empowering unions there.
NINA TURNER: We’ve had to fight back right-to-work laws in the State of Ohio and it’s not over for us. But in the 1980s the citizens of the State of Ohio said it was the right thing to do to give workers the right to collectively bargain. And in 2011 some of my Republican colleagues tried to take that away. As a matter of fact, they did. The Legislature voted to take away collective bargaining rights. But we have the right or referendum, in Ohio and we got together both union and nonunion citizens in the State of Ohio to get it on the ballot to overturn what the Legislature had done. And so, what I want the viewers of The Real News and people out there in the world to know is that when workers get together they can turn the tide. That it is the right thing to do, both union and nonunion, because the importance of unions is not just for the union households. But in this country as we know when unions get better wages and better work conditions, it lifts the tide for every single worker. And so, we should care about what’s happening to our sisters and brothers in Canton, Mississippi.
JAISAL NOOR: So, we were speaking to folks here today and they were thrilled that you were here; that Bernie Sanders is here; Danny Glover is here, but they want to see more Democrats out here. They want to see–
NINA TURNER: –I do too! I want to see more Democrats out here too. What separates Democrats from some Republicans, because I’m not going to say all Republicans? What we need is people of good consciousness and people who have titles. You know, titles are good but purpose is better. And so we need people in the State level and the Federal level of government to care about the plight of the workers here in Canton, Mississippi; to care about the plight of workers all over this country and step into the arena like I am and like Senator Bernie Sanders and like Danny Glover, and so many other people who have come here to show solidarity with the workers of Canton, Mississippi. People need to act and everybody can act.
DANNY GLOVER: It’s the most extraordinary moment in this country’s history, for we have to be here. We have to be about justice for the workers. The work that we do here is not only for workers here but workers around the country and workers around the world. It’s important that we stand here with workers and their right to vote to have a union and that we take the energy to listen to what is happening here. The dynamics are changing every day. The south has become the new plantation. The south has become the new plantation right here. We have to fight for the workers and in fighting for those workers, fighting for what is happening here, we bring justice to workers across this country.
JAISAL NOOR: Some people are saying workers’ rights — the right to unionize is not a civil right. How do you respond to that?
CORNELL BROOKS: Well, first of all, to say that workers’ rights aren’t civil rights is to ignore vast swaths of American history. So, when we recall the iconic and emblematic march on Washington, the signs lifted up that day said, “Jobs and Freedom” — economic rights and civil rights. If we look at the rise of the modern American labor movement, the civil rights movement has been an undergirding force. When we look at the last march that Dr. King participated in, it was a march with and beside and behind sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. So, to say that workers’ rights aren’t civil rights is a little like saying you can enjoy the paper-thin freedoms of the Constitution, without enjoying the bread and butter economic rights that same Constitution protects.
CHOKWE LUMUMBA: Miss Chokwe Lumumba, I’m here because I stand for workers’ rights. I stand with the workers of Nissan and I believe that they deserve better.
JAISAL NOOR: So, your late father was the Mayor of Jackson?
CHOKWE LUMUMBA: Correct.
JAISAL NOOR: And his campaign was all about human rights, workers’ rights and out of that campaign, even before that campaign, there was the Cooperation Jackson Movement, empowering workers through cooperatives. Talk about where that stands today. And talk about what your future is running again in this election locally in Jackson.
CHOKWE LUMUMBA: Absolutely. Well, we’re still in the midst of that struggle. That struggle does not cease and so we’re constantly in the battle of how we create self-determined lives for people. And we believe in human rights for human beings and you cannot support human rights if you’re not prepared to support workers’ rights. And so, we live in a world where you have so many with so little and so few with so much. And so, we’re trying to change that dynamic right here in Jackson, Mississippi — we want to change the order of the world. That’s why I stand here with the workers of the Canton plant of Nissan because this is an essential step in making that happen.
JAISAL NOOR: And what are your plans? We saw Lumumba 2017 signs around Jackson earlier today.
CHOKWE LUMUMBA: Absolutely, well we’re running for Mayor right now. We’re putting forth a peoples’ platform which is centered on conditions which people have articulated and the needs of the community. And so, we’re going to push forth in that and make certain that we are victorious on May 2nd of 2017.
JAISAL NOOR: Great.