By on September 5, 2012

A report by Reuters suggests that the Canadian Auto Worker’s union may take the unprecedented step of striking at the plants of all three domestic automakers.

Traditionally, the union targets one company for bargaining and a possible strike, and that sets the precedent for contracts with the other two. This round of negotiations has been particularly tense; labor costs in Canada are considered to be the highest in the world, and auto makers are looking to bring them down to the level offered in the United States.

Reuters sums up the matter, stating

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) said strike committees will be formed by local unions at Ford of Canada, General Motors of Canada and Chrysler Canada this week, ahead of the union’s strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. eastern (0359 GMT) on September 17.

“It is our hope and intention to reach an agreement with at least one of the three companies before the deadline,” the union said in a leaflet distributed to members. “We must be prepared, though, to shut down operations at all three, should we be unable to reach an agreement.”

The unions are demanding that no more concessions be made on their end, in light of their sacrifices made during the bailout period contract negotiations. Compromises, such as profit sharing, have been floated by the auto makers, but only recently has the CAW changed their hardline stance against it.

TTAC readers with experience working in auto plants have suggested that a strike won’t happen, and that negotiations will eventually lead to an equitable settlement. It’s likely that talk of a strike at all three automakers is simply rhetoric in the run-up to more intense negotiations.

Reuters quotes Gary Beck, chairman of the CAW’s Ford master bargaining committee as stating

“We have been sitting down with all three companies, and no one has taken the initiative to lead,” he said. “This will, hopefully, wake them up.”

In our eyes, that’s a fairly strong piece of evidence to support the above theory.

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51 Comments on “CAW Mulling Strikes At All Three Automakers...”

  • avatar

    Looking at it strictly from the CAW point of view, it’s a smarter strategy than the old way of doing things. It also shows IMO, the weakened position of the CAW in these contract talks and the ever weakening position of traditional trade unions in Canada. Over the recent labour day holiday Ken was blathering on about reaching out to non-union workers etc. etc. Just looking at the comments on Canadian news websites associated with his speech it’s clear that most ordinary Canucks hate these unions with a passion and want nothing to do with them. Many people, myself included fully expect the CAW to completely destroy the manufacturing operations of the D3 in Canada and don’t want the same thing to happen to their jobs. I get the feeling that if Ken and his minnions show up in Cambridge, Aliston or Woodstock in Ontario, they will be run out of town.

    • 0 avatar

      They’ve been trying to unionize Aliston for literally decades. No such luck.

    • 0 avatar

      Is Ontario a right-to-work province? What would the repercussions be if a carmaker announced a need to close a plant and picked a union one over one of those you mentioned?

      • 0 avatar

        The plants mentioned are run by Honda and Toyota which have no CAW assembly plants.

        Their workers are paid less with less benefits, and more temporary workers are used, however they appear more or less content with this and consistenly reject attempts at unionization.

        The reason the CAW isn’t in those plants is because anyone who talks union is targeted and walked before any of that can gain real traction. Of course those workers would love to have what the CAW workers have.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    The still have 12, err 11.5 days until the deadline. The strike committees are a shot across the manufactures bow. There will be more negotiations and sound bites. Going on strike with Christmas coming up is not good for the blue collar workers.

  • avatar

    I think we found a way to bring jobs back to the good old USA. Pack the factories up and bring the machinery down here.

    Canada lost it’s competitive edge on wages already, and with the oil revenue pouring in the displaced workers can find exciting new careers in the energy sector.

    I’m sure there are some nice areas in right to work states that would welcome a GM , Ford or Chrysler plant.

    • 0 avatar

      Thats exactly it. The CAW’s enemy isn’t the Corporations, it’s the UAW. The 2 tier wage system greatly reduced the labor cost of UAW workers and it has been benefiting them with more work. The CAW needs to realize they are competing directly with the UAW and if the corporation can save money, they will. They are not a charity, they are a business and it all comes down to dollars and cents (loonies and toonies).

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps you would like to define the pernicious phrase “right to work”. Are there “no right to work” areas or are there “no living wage” areas, or are there “Shut the f*ck up and work” areas?

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    I too think it’s just posturing, and since such a move has never been attempted, it somewhat succeeds in drawing a bit more attention to it.

    Nonetheless, even if they were to strike against all three automakers, it wouldn’t last long at all. To strike against a single automaker and its facilities already drains the coffers of the union (which are already running on fumes). Imagine having to hand out strike pay to all 3 at once.

  • avatar

    Just a thought here. Maybe Lewenza is hoping, that the mere threat of shutting down the “not so big 3” might generate back to “work legislation”.

    Ask the teachers,or Air Canada pilots union,or the CAW represented, flight attendent union. The railway workers got sent back to work. Keep in mind, both provicial, and federal governments,also own a piece of GM and Chrysler. So they DO have a dog in this fight.

    Could be a great way for Ken to save face.

    Just a thought.

  • avatar

    Kind of miss ol Buzz Hargrove.

  • avatar

    Boyo, the CAW seems like a poker player who’s bluffed his entire stack, with everyone else at the table knowing his tell. With the CAW threatening to strike all three, why wouldn’t the automakers just play hardball and dare them to? The union would be bankrupt long before inventory gets low.

  • avatar

    Remember UAW, these are not your union “Brothers”.

    They are Canadians. At the end of the day, they will think about themselves and their country only. The US is not even on their list.
    The US and its people should do the same. The days of prosperity the world over are over. They are your competition in making cars. Take their potential strike threat as an opportunity.

    For that reason, don’t stick up for them and you have a slim chance that the D3 move something south into your hands for your union.

    Stick up for them and then go stand by some railroad tracks and watch as plant equipment leaves Canada and goes to Mexico.

  • avatar

    If they follow through on this threat the next headline will read ‘CAW shoots itself in the foot three different ways.’ This is a foolishly risky move in my opinion, bluffing is for when you have nothing left to lose, CAW has plenty they can lose, their jobs are no more sacred than anyone elses.

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Steege

      I question the wisdom in this approach. To me it seems better to be working. I travel a lot throughout the US and Canada and if the union is trying to scare the US automakers, they may have a very unpleasant surprise awaiting them.

      The sentiment in the US is to bring the jobs back home to America. If it is a battle of wits the union wants, the Canadian workers will lose and Canada will lose.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    When the C$ was worth less than the US$ the CAW rationalized higher Canadian wages saying our autoworkers were being paid in cheaper dollars. Now with the currency at par it wants to bury that rationalization, apparently until the last unionista is unemployed.

  • avatar

    Strikes are most effective when the company is making record profits, prevailing wages in comparable fields are higher, the labor market is tight, public sentiment is supportive and unemployment is low.

    Current conditions are exactly the opposite. There isn’t just one reason for taking the dare, there are several. The Volt just idled again and sales are ho hum on just about every car out there. The US dollar is at parity with the dollar, there may never be a better time to jump.

  • avatar

    Expecting the UAW or CAW to act like ‘reasonable adults’ is the first mistake in this process. But the second is the D3 are not much better IMO. They both deserve each other.

  • avatar

    The CAW and other unions are “weakened”? Really? Canada is a mostly socialist country, the most fertile environment for unionism. We have some friends in Ontario. They are ardent lefties who can’t understand why anyone in America wouldn’t vote for Obama. (Canadian media may be even further left than ours.) Plus, we read auto sales are now booming, so wouldn’t strikes hurt the D3 more than the CAW? That’s why the UAW made out like bandits for decades. Workers have strike benefits and, I suppose, unemployment benefits to live on.

    However, I can see that plants in Mexico threaten both Canadian and US auto worker unions.

    • 0 avatar

      Mexico is a really nice place to produce cars these days, specially that now they not only have Nafta, but also a free trade agreement with Brazil, the nation that buys Corollas paying BMW money.

      Labor is cheaper, laws as looser… Again I say, CAW is aiming at the D3 but might just end up shooting their own feet.

      • 0 avatar

        The Brazil free trade agreement just took it in the face. I don’t foresee any reconiliation on Brazil’s part, either.

      • 0 avatar

        If Mexico can’t get a handle on their drug gangs soon it may be safer and cheaper to make cars in Russia.

      • 0 avatar

        So far, the drug wars haven’t affected the auto industry in Mexico and I don’t see a common link necessarily or conflict of interest.

        That doesn’t mean it’s safe for auto execs to travel to Mexico, but even years ago when it was considered relatively safe, I still did my best to blend in.

      • 0 avatar

        @tresmonos, the agreement is still valid. There were some changes, but mexican cars are still coming in great numbers – the Nissan March and Versa, for example, are alive and well.

        The mexican agreement with Argentina was canned.

  • avatar

    The irony is that a strike against the Big 3 only helps the transplants.

    And GM would love to see its truck inventory shrink without closing the plant themselves.

  • avatar

    As for the Detroit Three moving Canadian Jobs to Mexico, then you won’t mind us here in Canada shipping our Alberta Oil to China instead of sending it to you in the USA?

    • 0 avatar

      Sure, shipping it has GOT to be cheaper than selling it here, right?

      And we could make our air quality laws equivalent to Mexico’s as well!

      We do have Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, that we can drill, it might mess up some pristine CANADIAN land as well as US, but you can thank BP for opening our eyes to that “opportunity”.

      And we could exclude any Canadian based company from being paid billions of dollars, based on our subsidies to oil companies.

      If you want to appoint a commission to study this, we propose to name Rick Perry and George (the third) Bush, and the captain of the Exxon Valdez.

      In other words, I bet we can take a bigger dump on your lawn than you can on ours.

    • 0 avatar

      With our current leadership, unfortunately you may have no other choice. Actually, just having more oil on the global market will probably have the same effect on the commodity price no matter where it gets shipped to.

    • 0 avatar

      I always considered Canada an equal playing field with the US, and it never bothered me to see Made in Canada, the way it does to see the pathetic amount of outsourcing to China and Mexico. I just don’t understand why there are those who rub their hands with glee when workers – Union or otherwise – lose their jobs. The US and Canada should not embrace the idea that the standard of living and protections to workers and planet should be reduced to that of Mexico.

      gslippy: Can’t help but wonder if the backlog of trucks was created with a “strike stock” in mind. In any event, I believe the CAW is making a mistake here. The economic climate is not conducive to a successful outcome.

      50merc: The vast majority of true ardent lefties find Obama way too conservative for a real socialist agenda. He may be left of center, but not by much, unless you consider Rupert Merdoch a moderate Republican…

      • 0 avatar

        I do rub my hands when I read of GM or Chrysler layoffs. Every time a UAW member is let go my own prospects for retirement improve. Then again, Detroit could wake up one morning and decide it can no longer live with the guilt of forcing Obama to raid any pension plan that invested in either company and pay us back. And pigs might learn to leap at the Bolshoi.

    • 0 avatar


      Um, wasn’t that already implied when the current administration decided (foolishly) to say no to Keystone XL?

      And yes, we would mind if that sweet Alberta Tea was sent to China instead of the US. At least those few of us down here that understand economics and want gas under $4US/gal.

      P.S. When society collapses in the US, please let my family and I in…:)

  • avatar

    Similar to our southern neighbors,we in Canada,for the most part,sit in the center of the political spectrum. However “our” center is a couple of degrees to the left of yours.

    @golden2husky…Your right, we are on the same playing field. You guys just got a lot bigger team.

    BTW… Canada does not have a truck plant.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the clarification. If anybody is interested, google “Political Compass” and take the test! According to the test, I’m a bit more left and much more libertarian than I would have considered myself. And to think my wife and I were considering buying a firearm!

  • avatar

    This sounds like a good way to get some production moved down south.

    I heard last week that Janesville, Wisconsin has an empty plant available………..

  • avatar

    When did union become a dirty word? Has “the big lie” become such a prevalent technique of realpolitik that anyone under 40 believes that they’re better off alone against corporate interests? Are you really that brainwashed? The so-called branding of an entire movement based on a few bad actors would be humorous were it not for the fact that people were killed in almost all major strikes of 1900-1940. Do you really expect a soulless bean counter to have any empathy for a working family in America today? Haven’t their actions spoken volumes? They got the keys and drove the truck off a cliff. You want to give them a new one with a full tank of gas? The average reader on this forum has more in common with a Brazilian cane worker than Mitt and his boys.

    • 0 avatar

      “When did union become a dirty word?”

      Basically the past five years or so. Many people blame the UAW in part for GM and Chrysler going down, for reasons that have been mentioned here many times before. The upshot is that it led to higher prices for consumers. Then there was the bankruptcy process itself, which will never smell right to me or a lot of others, no matter how many times PCH arrives to defend it.

      Then there’s media coverage. Go to any centrist-to-right-leaning web site mentioning unions, and count how many posts before the word “thug” comes up, assuming it isn’t in the article itself. Lather, rinse, repeat for the last three-plus years, and that’s the reason why.

    • 0 avatar

      olddavid, was that you I saw selling the Kool-Aid on the convention floor in Charlotte ? If I promise to vote for Barack, will you put me in touch with a Braziian cane worker to do the windows on my S-Class ?

  • avatar

    I`m sorry but if the American middle class example is a Union member we,the middle class, have lost all hope.
    Never in my life have I seen such shamfull disregard for quality, productivity and loyalty to an employer as I have seen with the U.A.W.
    At labor rates twice what they were worth yes,they made the middle class look good..on paper.
    But have no fear.If the CAW strikes they WILL strike out.
    No support for poor performance anymore.
    If you can get it built for a lower price in Mexico and still pay the employees a good wage with good benefits..your moving there!

  • avatar

    I took a tour of a UAW factory several years ago. I was only impressed with the robots.

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