If you believe Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, the CAW is well on its way to organizing Honda’s Alliston, Ontario assembly plant. Lewenza told Ward’s Auto that “We’re getting some enthusiastic and strong support, but we’re not there yet.” The biggest problem for Lewenza is that the CAW has been in that position for almost two decades with respect to Alliston and hasn’t made any progress.
You may not know that, if the only thing you’ve seen so far are totally inaccurate, poorly aggregated articles like “CAW Begins to Organize Workers at Honda’s Ontario Factory“. This is simply not true. The CAW isn’t begging to organize workers at Alliston. Nor are Honda’s Canadian plant employees a bunch of pinkos who want to revolt against their foreign overlords while reaping the benefits of a union card. The truth is far more mundane and less exciting, as it usually is.
Honda hasn’t gone on the record with any publication regarding the CAW’s attempts – but we have sources that are familiar with the company, and are willing to talk to us. According to our source, the CAW has been trying this since at least the early1990s, but has never had much success.
There are assembly line workers at Alliston who want to unionize, but the majority apparently have no desire; wages are competitive and union dues don’t have to be paid. The union hasn’t been warmly received in the past either. Alliston, which builds the Honda Civic, CR-V, Acura MDX and ZDX, is one of Honda’s crown jewels in North America, and to Honda brass, the idea of unionization is anathema to the Big H’s corporate culture.
“It runs counter to the Japanese concept of loyalty,” our source said. “The whole idea is that if you’re loyal to the company, they’ll look out for you and your best interests. The workers shouldn’t need a union for that.” Honda also doesn’t want an outside force interfering in the way their plants are run. As our source put it “…[Organizing] interferes with the management structure of the plant itself – which is unacceptable to them.” As for what would happen if Alliston, or another Honda plant unionized? “Well,” said my source “remember what happened to Wal-Mart in Quebec?”
The idea that the union is making “progress” like so many blog headlines suggest, may be relative to say, being nearly dead in the water over the past two decades. The CAW is, to put it lightly, f***ed if they don’t sign up new members, and in a world where even the Oshawa plant is at risk, their future is precarious at best.