By on June 4, 2008

gmbrandmark_3metallic.jpgOne knee-jerk reaction begets another. As reported yesterday, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) wasn't over the moon over the announced closure of GM's Oshawa truck plant. Note: Oshawa IS General Motors. Chevrolet's had a plant in the city since the early 1900s, before Oshawa itself was incorporated as a city. The local hockey team is named for GM. GM-Oshawa employed 2600 direct workers, and no doubt accounted for thousands of other peripheral jobs. So when GM CEO Rick Wagoner sounded the plant's death knell, the CAW's members immediately declared war. Today, CTVNews reports that defiant CAW members, fueled by a desperation that only comes when one has nothing to lose, are blockading the offices until further notice. There's no news of reactions from workers at the other Oshawa plant where they build Chevy Impalas and Buick Lacrosses/Allures. Meanwhile, Toyota and Honda, just as recently as last month, announced billion-dollar investments in Ontario. Hyundai/Kia is also considering moving in. Of course, we all know this story, don't we? Soon, Ontario will be another theatre of war that The General will cede to the Asians, during its long, tragic descent into oblivion.

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35 Comments on “Oshawa Workers Blockade GM Offices...”

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Yes, but the beer drinking and ‘eh’ filler words will go down dramatically.

    Seriously… these folks have been given better packages than 99+% of the world’s blue collar labor force. If they want to blockade… fine. GM shouldn’t pay them a nickel.

  • avatar

    Where are the cops? Seriously. How do you impress upon people that just because you put on a CAW shirt does not mean that you get to do whatever the hell you want.

    The tragedy is that for the most part these guys think that this is going to work. Why aren’t they driving to Aliston or Cambridge and putting in their applications at Honda or Toyota?

  • avatar

    Impalas? Wait a minute–that’s mikey, right?

    fella, get yourself to a computer and give us some truthy updates please

  • avatar

    Blockade? As they’ve locked themselves in?

    Help me understand exactly what they are doing here…if they just decided to stop working and blockaded themselves in, wow.

    Edit: I read TFA. GM should just close the plant now if this is the way they are going to behave.

  • avatar

    So, will the Ontario Provincial Police or the Mounties go in and arrest these guys (and presumably, gals) for tresspassing on private property?

    Huh, I bet not. Property rights? What property rights?

    But of course, Canadian “justice” appears to be an oxymoron. At least, if you say something that the powers-that-be don’t like, anyway.

    Or, God forbid you should speak a foreign language that nobody else knows, and get shoved into an airport restricted area for hours on end and are forgotten, then get upset. You might end up tazed, have your neck knelt on by an RCMP occifer then die, like this man had happen to him.

    Haven’t heard one word about any legal repercussions against the RCMP or the murderous mounty, though, have we?

    And meanwhile in other news, the world reviles and hates on America. Idiots.

  • avatar

    The line “Oshawa is GM” is perhaps more true than people think. That part of Ontario (Durham region, especially the cities of Oshawa, Whitby and Bowmanville) lives or dies by GM. Other than GM, most residents are either employed by a parts supplier, or commute to Toronto (the provincial capital).

    The local populace is very loyal, buying not just GM cars, but GM cars made there. In the past, they’ve supported GM through trouble like this, so it’s surprising (and very telling) that instead of seeing a repeat of “Hungry? Out of work? Eat your import!” campaigns, they’re taking it out on GM itself.

    Oshawa has worked very hard for GM. They’ve repeatedly scooped quality awards, moreso than any other plant in North America (yes, including Toyota or Honda). They were recently given the Camaro, amongst much fanfare (Buzz Hargrove looked very smug about this) and had been given no indication, other than a market-driven loss of a shift, that this was coming. Given these circumstances, it’s understandable that they feel betrayed: they did good work, supported GM through thick and thin, and more or less got cut off at the knees for their trouble.

    I won’t deny that Hargrove et al did a spectacularly bad job of negotiating the last contract (and Mr. Gettelfinger had better pay attention to what’s happening) but this was totally unexpected.

    Compared to what Ford, the government the union did in Oakville (about ~75km down the highway, builds the Edge, MKX and Flex), this is particularly shameful for both parties

  • avatar

    The irony is that last Friday they had the Auto Barons Ball at the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa to celebrate the 100th anniversary of GM with the President of GM Canada attending as well as the Federal Minister of Finance.

    Yesterday GM drops the bomb on Oshawa and today the union blockades the entrance to GM’s head office(on the shores of lake Ontario).

    As a side note in the heydays of Sam McLaughlin all the good hockey players for the Oshawa Generals were employed by GM in some obscure positions that paid well.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    @menno; usually I wouldn’t ask (’cause hey, I’m Canadian), but would you mind editing down your comments a little? Perhaps I’ve misread, but it sounds an awful lot like you’ve chosen several unfortunate incidents and have decided to paint an entire country with one brush and called us idiots (or perhaps the rest of the world?) at the same time. Nothing personal – in fact, I caught some of your other discussions as few days ago (dealing with the name “menno” amoung other things!), and agree with many of your sentiments…

    Back on topic – on the radio just now (1pm), Buzz has apparently secured a meeting with Lutz this Friday morning (not sure if Lutz is the guy to talk to!). The leaders at the Oshawa blockade want to know about the agenda before removing their people. The blockade, BTW, is simply that; they aren’t letting people/materials into or out of the plant. There is apparently a call center right next to the plant, and employees of the call center are moving through the blockade (though apparently they need to present employee id to prove that they aren’t GM related workers).

  • avatar

    From the article, it looks like they are blockading the head office for GM Canada (an office building), not the plant itself.

  • avatar

    Sorry, Brendon, didn’t mean to offend. It sometimes irks me that so many other countries can have their faults and seem to simply get a “pass” from so much of the world’s press (and therefore, sheeple) while we Americans continually get clobbered.

    Not that America isn’t following down the same fascist, sad path that the rest of the world seems to be following, but we’re off topic a bit again.

    Yeah, I was calling the world idiots. A tiny bit of gratitude and thankfulness for sacrifices made by America, AND Britain as well as Canada and Australia and New Zealand, for that matter, in WWII wouldn’t go amiss in the world. Otherwise, most of us would be speaking German and going “heil” a lot.

  • avatar

    Don’t judge all of Canada by what goes on in BC.

    Also: The US only entered the war over 2 years after the British empire. So I would put Britian and Canada etc before the US on that list.

  • avatar

    MikeInCanada wrote:

    Why aren’t they driving to Aliston or Cambridge and putting in their applications at Honda or Toyota?

    This is not an option for ex GM employees. When Honda set up the plant in Aliston, they specifically excluded anyone with any prior automotive industry experience. They did not want to have to “unteach” employees with preconceived ideas of how cars should be built. It also helps prevent employees from trying to initiate ridiculous CAW-style work rules and makes sure that the supervisor/line worker hostility and mistrust that is prevalent in the D3 does not infect Honda.

  • avatar

    OK Nick :I can’t be too specific I will either get fired or the crap beat out of me.I will take a pass on both.
    They have a picket set up at the head office and thats all.The local president Chris Buckley has

    menno: I respect your opinion,however as a Canadian I do not comment on American politics ever.I trust you will give us the same respect.

  • avatar

    I don’t see the problem here.

    All they are doing is fighting for their jobs. What’s wrong with that? In fact, it may even help them.

    A few years ago, GM told GM UK, Germany, Sweden and, I think, Hungary that they were going to build the new 2010 Astra. This left GM Belgium redundant and was going to be closed. GM Belgium workers went on strike until GM management caved in and gave them 2 new models to build.

    So, nothing unusual here, as far as I can see…..

  • avatar

    Fair enough Mikey, sorry for my post everyone. Once in awhile, I lose my temper a bit. I’m not perfected yet. That happens about a nanosecond after I eventually go tango uniform.

    Nothing personal. I do like Canada and Canadians too, BTW. In fact, Mrs and I are going to have the vacation of a lifetime and go to Alberta (Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, etc) and we’re driving there. Go north, over two bridges, and turn left…. (we’re in Michigan).

    Taking the Sonata (so as to keep the miles off the Prius / to make it last 15 years) since the Sonata gets so few miles and we have 12k mpy on the lease – and we’re not even close.

    Unless gas is $5 a gallon when we leave in mid-July, then we’ll take the Prius. That’s my tipping point for the trip.

    But then we’re talking thousands of miles.

    As for WWII, yep the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis were in there first, all right. Not forgetting though, that the US “arsenal of democracy” started ramping up “lend-lease” equipment literally by the boat-loads by 1940.

  • avatar

    The problem is it’s stupid and a waste of time. GM management is showing (to me, at least) that they aren’t for caving in anymore. These people need to move on.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    @menno: no worries; I did catch on to the frustration that you must be experiencing. The US does get a bad rap around the world and unfortunately most of it derives from the actions of few, not the actions of many (and naturally the media pandering that seems common these days – sell! sell! – regardless of the truth). Having travelled throughout NA and Europe, I can categorically say that Americans are by far the friendliest, most gregarious people I’ve run across (in broad terms); unfortunately this doesn’t seem to translate well when I meet Americans in Europe; I suspect that it’s partly because life is relatively “easy” in the US, in comparison to many countries – anyhow, I’m straying well off topic as well.

    @Katie: I agree; sounds like a reasonable right-to-assembly (for our friends to the South!).

    @CarShark: when somebody tells you that you are going to lose your livelihood, I can certainly understand the desire to protest; rolling over isn’t always a palateable answer, regardless of the outcome.

    I’ve sometimes wondered if there isn’t reason to keep these plants going -IF- and only -IF- the quality is higher then all other plants. If part of the problem with GM product is their assembly, it would seem to me that it might be worth investing in a better made product (even if it causes some bleeding) in order to regain marget share.

    @Menno (again!): Sounds like a fun trip. I’m but a few hours from you – have always wanted to do the drive, but the misses has always preferred to fly – we’ve done the Rocky Mountain trip a bunch of times (every other summer for the last 6 years) – beautiful landscape. If you happen to stay at B&Bs (and probably in any event) you can easily meet people from all over the world trekking around the Rockies….

  • avatar

    I think that the anti-American sentiment in Canada, and the anti-Canadian sentiment in America is propagated to a great extent by a loud mouthed minority and the media.

    Since half of Atlantic Canada (where I’m from) is now in Alberta, you will no doubt run into a few Maritimers and Newfoundlanders. Do yourself a favour. Have a beer with them. We are some of the most fun loving people in Canada.

  • avatar

    Back on topic here folks,we were fu—d,we made a deal GM renaged.End of story.

    Now what T. F. do we do?Do we shut Impala down?
    NO way too f—en valuable.How about truck?Not a real good time eh?

    So guess what? We picket the main office,the media comes out of the woodwork,and we get our point across.

    Menno:apoligy accepted your forgiven.
    revolver:lord tunderin jesus me son we gotta bluenoser. Me best buddy is a by from the rock.

    And the Americans thought we only spoke 2 languages

  • avatar

    boo hoo, now these employees have to get a real factory job and get paid 50% less. or they can get an education. of course they have all saved up money because they knew that their company was going to go tits up sometime sooner rather than later.

  • avatar

    revolver:lord tunderin jesus me son we gotta bluenoser. Me best buddy is a by from the rock.

    And the Americans thought we only spoke 2 languages

    I almost spit out my coffee.

    I’m a true bluenoser, from Cape Breton and I’m actually on The Rock now.

    I’m probably the only person in Canada who moved East for a job

  • avatar

    Mikey, in my world (I’m an engineer, computers, not automotive), if you have a production facility that is clearly higher quality, you don’t shut it down.

    Also, when you have employees you like, you don’t let them go if you don’t have to. I’ve seen a group get “cuts”, where the headcount goes down, but the company doesn’t want to lose the employee, so they’re transferred to another open position. Granted, that was software, but I also know engineers who have moved cross country for the same job.

    Bottom line, if Oshawa and the employee base is that good, GM should be either be A) shutting down another facility somewhere else, or B) offering to move Oshawa workers elsewhere, and making the cuts (which in this climate, do get made) from factories that don’t stack up as well.

    Then again, that would assume that GM saw employees as an asset. I hope someone there does, for Mikey and everyone in Oshawa’s sake.

  • avatar

    I have to stand in support of menno statement, re Brendon in Canada. I am Canadian as well, and have no problem calling a spade a spade. The Liberal governments in this country have taunted, fostered and used outright, anti-Americanism to achieve power and now Canada is laying in it’s own well made bed with regards to American based manufacturers with stricter US boarder crossing regulations and a home team first attitude.
    We Canadians do not have property rights enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms because of the very left leaning people in power here. They want to take away our right to free speech as well.This is the reason that the Natives can take over private property and block majour highways and GM workers can take over the GM head office with impunity.
    So menno is right as much as we don’t want to hear it.

  • avatar

    Re: Eitan “if you have a production facility that is clearly higher quality, you don’t shut it down”

    Good point, however, while Quality is a factor, it’s never been an overriding concern for the domestics – more like a pleasant unintended consequence of better manufacturing and design practices.

    Regarding moving people from one plant to another, that’s kind of the whole point – GM has too many employees – there is no place to put everyone.

    As for moving cross country (or anywhere for that matter) Canada has a long tradition of not encouraging labor mobility. For example it’s been 20 some odd years when the fishing industry hit the skids and only now are people migrating to the Alberta oil patch.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Buzz Hargrove. The CAW union chief screams bloody murder and taunts of “betrayal” over GM’s upcoming closing of its Oshawa truck plant while threatening a strike or legal action. Maybe if you weren’t such a relentless pain in the ass for so long GM may have closed a different plant, eh, Buzz? You had this one coming, and now your rank & file membership will know exactly who to blame this time. You reap what you sow, as they say. As a matter of fact, Buzz, you’re entitled to it. – Peter M. De Lorenzo, Autoextremeist, 6-4-08

  • avatar

    There is a sad symmetry here. The CAW blockade of the head office at Oshawa is reminiscent of the famous sit-down strikes in 1936 (most notably at Flint) by which the UAW got representation rights. Seventy-two years ago, workers were blockading to get a bigger piece of the pie; now they blockade to keep it from shrinking or disappearing.

  • avatar

    It probably an informational picket

    sit down strikes are illegal in the US and I presume canada

  • avatar


    I agree GM needs to shed workers. My point was that if Oshawa needs to close for whatever reason, close the plant, but try to keep the workers. Remove workers from lower quality facility, put higher quality workforce in place. At the end of the day, a highly talented motivated workforce will produce a better car.

    I know it’s not that simple, but treating personel as assets rather than liabilities is one of the things that Toyota and Honda seem to get.

    And manufacturing quality should be job 1 for the domestics. North America contains a very highly skilled workforce along with talented engineers. However, it seems that the talent is going to the transplants.

  • avatar

    Menno I think the rest of the world was grateful to the US for our role in the second world war. However that was my fathers’s generation being grateful to probably your father’s generation. When he passed away he specifically specified that on his tombstone be inscribed born in Bejing but loved Tampa because he was grateful for the opportunities afforded to him in America, but seriously no one from the current generation owes any of us anything now unless we were actually old enough to have stormed the beaches of Normandy. Thats a little like those that want reparations to current African Americans based on the sins commited against their forefathers. Gratitude, rewards, sins and punishment are appropriate to those that actually earned them and not the children or grandchildren of the actual deed doers

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    @jckirlan11: Since we’re probably well into wandering off-topic, I don’t think I was clear – I’m in the camp that believes we’re heading way to far to the socialist end of the scale here in Canada; I’m not even sure if we actually have any right leaning parties – they are all left of center as far as I’m concerned, and some bordering on dangerously so. And don’t get me started on native rights; only the Canadian gvn’t would setup up a commission for overriding all deals that were previously re-settled that don’t fit with current wants and desires – and guess who the richest population ($$ per capita in a city/community) happens to be in Canada? The Canadian sheep mentality has lead me to question heading elsewhere in the past; however, something about love the country, not the government still rings true for now…

  • avatar

    Of late, last couple of years, I’ve often thought about how I’d feel to be a GM worker who had worked hard at whatever I did, showed up regardless of being sick, sore or hurt, worked whatever hours I was asked, year after year while watching Roger Smith lie, blunder and make one terrible decision after another, listen to Lutz lie, watch Wagoner waste billions on Fiat while refusing to allow GM’s great engineers develop cars as good as the Civic and Accord and now watch my life go down the toilet while he denies blame and walks away rich. I’d feel like doing a lot more than sitting down somewhere where I wasn’t wanted.

  • avatar

    A lot of writers to the Canadian press seem to have a hate on for Auto Workers, such a shame as these people cant see the Forest for all the trees in the way.I keep reading the Globe and Mail sections about all the turmoil in Oshawa and what do most writers do is too blame the GM Workers whereas when two parties sign a collective agreement, it the law of the land, so I also feel that the CAW members have been shafted by GM Management who must have known about this upcoming shut down as they where sitting there signing this agreement, therefore the CAW could fight this in Court. Menno when you visit Alberta, try and see where a lot of your Oil comes from ie Fort McMurray! Thats my old Union there who represents these Petrol workers, so therefore I know a lot about collective aggrements from my Union days!
    And in my opinion GM Canada bargained in bad faith, nothing worse than maybe a “Scab”!

  • avatar

    Sorry my bad, Brendon in Canada, as I misunderstood. I have to agree completely with your last post. Now let’s get back to the main love of my life CARS!

  • avatar

    BTW I will be going to B&Bs in Alberta. Yes, I know about the oil sands, a very intriguing and profitable thing for Canada, good on ya as the Aussies say.

    Here’s a constructive thought for the CAW and GM.

    What do you guys think of this one?

    CAW has a contract with GM, so doesn’t need to strike (and use strike fund monies), GM can’t sell trucks and wants to lay off the workforce at 1/2 of Oshawa.

    OK CAW, now it’s time to consider putting money where mouth is. GM, it’s time to look at the workforce represented by the CAW as an asset.

    CAW – take your strike fund monies – all of them – and sit down with GM, a dying company, and try to save your men’s jobs by offering the money to help re-tool the truck plant in Oshawa to build something they think they can sell.

    How about setting up Opel Zafira production and selling them as Chevrolet Zafira’s, as GM does in Brazil? A worthy competitor to the Kia Rhondo, which seems to be a pretty good success story and selling well.

    The Zafira is a good choice because the already-in-production Ecotech four cylinder engine can be used; the vehicle is considered a “truck” so should be relatively easy to “federalize” for sale in the US; it’s considered a modern crashworthy vehicle and has passed the Euro-NCAP crash tests with good results.

    Well, that’s my constructive suggestion.

    What say you, TTAC’ers? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Any alternative ideas?

  • avatar

    menno: I think that is a good idea. It’s that or GM will die before our eyes and come back a leaner company without the unions if they can help it.

    I figure after they go bankrupt and take alot of paychecks and suppliers down with them, they’ll lobby the gov’ts to remove union-shop rules blaming their failure on the unions (which is partially true but far most of their problems).

    The problem, at least in the USA, is that too many Americans don’t know a good vehicle when it runs over their toe and thus the reason Saturn has competitive vehicles but fewer customers than I would have expected. If the Zafira could be a best seller here I would expect the Mazda5 to be a bigger player than it is.

    FWIW I think high gas prices will be good for us in the long run b/c the American consumer is getting an education in needs vs wants vs blind consumerism. I just wish some of the huge profits were financing something enduring like

    Still wondering if the rising price and big profits don’t represent big oil’s last big profit grab as gasoline becomes obsolete in the next 10-15 years replaced by electric commuter cars.

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