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Pickering: Nissan has met obligations to state

State auditor Stacey Pickering disputed Tuesday a union-funded study that said Nissan had not met its obligations to Mississippi.

Washington, D.C.-based Good Jobs First recently released the results of a study, paid for by the United Auto Workers, that said Nissan had violated the terms attached to its state incentives by denying workers the right to decide to unionize and by hiring large numbers of temporary workers. The study also claimed that Nissan’s incentives surpassed $1.3 billion, more than three times the reported figure when the plant opened in2003. Nissan and the Mississippi Development Authority disputed the study’s findings.

Pickering, in a column published Sunday in the Clarion-Ledger, said the state auditor’s office has verified Nissan’s job-count figures since the Canton plant opened, and found that they met and in most cases exceeded the threshold attached to the incentives.

“According to the law and the Memorandum of Understandings between Nissan and the state of Mississippi, Nissan was required to maintain 3,000 new direct jobs at the project site until 2021,” Pickering wrote. “As of our last audit in December, 2011, Nissan employed over 4,100 employees, far exceeding the mandated requirements.”

Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, a group of clergy and elected officials, has led the efforts to unionize Canton workers. The organization claims Nissan has threatened to fire workers for doing so, which would violate federal labor laws. Nissan has repeatedly denied the accusations.

The Nissan facility was created under the Mississippi Major Economic Impact Act, the statute that allows oversight from the state auditor’s office. Pickering unsuccessfully pushed for legislation the last session that would have extended auditor oversight to all state-assisted economic development initiatives.

The legislation failed. Pickering told the Mississippi Business Journal in April he plans to push the legislation again in 2014.

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