By on December 13, 2013


The UAW’s troubles with organizing Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plants are well known throughout the auto world, but Unifor, the Canada union that was once known as the Canadian Auto Workers union, now claims that it has enough union cards to hold a vote on representation.

Speaking to the Windsor Star, Unifor president Jerry Dias claims that 3,200 of Toyota’s 6,500 employees at plants in Cambridge and Woodstock have signed the cards, but Unifor will delay a vote until it is confident it can win a “comfortable majority”.

According to Dias, money isn’t the primary issue for the desire to organize, and workers are confident that the backlash from unionizing will be minimal

“We’ve had other organizing drives in the past, but this one is by far the most successful..the  workers are getting older. The issues aren’t so much wages. It’s line speed and the company unilaterally imposing changes to shifts and pension plans that have infuriated people…they used to be afraid that the plant would close. They see that’s not true. Toyota built more than 500,000 cars in Canada last year. They’re not going anywhere.”

Dias reported that 85 percent of Toyota plants worldwide are unionized, and that Unifor is expecting minimal interference from the company. Having just returned from meetings with Japanese union leaders in Tokyo, Dias said that Japanese unions will ask Toyota officials not to have Canadian management interfere with the organizing drive.

This isn’t the first time the CAW/Unifor has tried to organize Toyota plants, or other transplants for that matter. The former CAW made a lot of noise about organizing Honda’s Alliston, Ontario plant, and has been at it since the 1990’s but nothing has panned out to this day.

While Dias asserts that the majority of Toyota plants are unionized, one key detail not mentioned is the differing nature of unions in North America and a place like Japan. Japanese labor unions are far less adversarial in their relationship with the company than an entity like the CAW/Unifor. The harmonious relationship is essential to the Japanese outlook on labor and business. During our research into the Honda-CAW matter, one former Honda employee with labor relations expertise told TTAC that organizing

“…runs counter to the Japanese concept of loyalty. The whole idea is that if you’re loyal to the company, they’ll look out for you and your best interests….Honda also doesn’t want an outside force interfering in the way their plants are run….[Organizing] interferes with the management structure of the plant itself – which is unacceptable to them.”


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27 Comments on “Toyota Plants In Canada On The Path To Organizing...”

  • avatar

    “. . .they used to be afraid that the plant would close. They see that’s not true. Toyota built more than 500,000 cars in Canada last year. They’re not going anywhere.”

    Yeah, hold on to that thought. I would invite Mr. Dias to visit dozens of towns in the upper Midwest in the United States where workers thought the same thing.

    I applaud the union’s role in pushing for a safe work environment, better training, etc. But if Mr. Dias were to peek outside his office, he would find that changes to pension formulas (if one even exists) and “do more with less” (i.e. speeding up the line) are the order of the day in our contemporary economy.

    There’s a very thin line between bargaining on behalf of your employees and watching your factory get shipped off to a tax abatement granting state in the Southeast U.S.

  • avatar

    We are starting to see unions around the world uniting against the race to the bottom. I think it is a good thing. If the playing field has to be level, it may as well be in favor of a better standard of living for all. We’ve been playing this “supply side economics” game for thirty years now and the only winners are the corporations and the likes of the Koch brothers and the Waltons. Go Jerry!

    • 0 avatar

      Unions act as cartels or monopolies and transfer income from consumers to their pockets. They act against the interests of the many for the few.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        I have never bought any union made product; be it a vehicle, a shirt, or a building that directly paid the respective union that made the product. A company, not a union, sells their products to a consumer. The company then pays their workers. Of course the cost of union labor is included in any union made product. It would be absurd to state otherwise. Labor unions do act for the interest of the many (workers) against the few (management). I am damned tired of many on TTAC who think they can use unions as their punching bag, blame them for all the economic woes in the US and usually put little or no thought into their diatribe. I’m gonna go slip on my Carhartt jacket, put on my Red Wings, and drive away in my Ford. Happy Holiday shopping

        • 0 avatar

          That’s a good website to find out what competitors offer non union made items for my CHRISTMAS.

          I’ll let you buy your union goods for your “holidays”

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            I’m going home for Christmas, mom and dad’s house will look a “Christmas Village” store. This may come as a shock but not everyone works in an all male, all white, all Christian office. I was assuming the TTAC readership is not all male, all white, and all Christian. If you really believe “they” should be quiet and willingly go along with another religion’s celebrations; I do feel sorry for you.

        • 0 avatar

          Good news, even CA is turning against Unions:

          Californians’ negative view of organized labor grows, Field Poll says


    • 0 avatar
      Bill Wade

      Blame the corporations? I repeatedly see American pickups with “Buy Union, Build Union” bumper stickers in my local Walmart parking lot.

      We’re the ones to blame, cheap is the game.

    • 0 avatar

      Yea, they definately need the unions at this plant, the workers are forced to work 18 hour days, if they get hurt they lose their job, their conditions are unsafe, and their pay is below standards of living….

      Seriously, they need unions like they need a hole in their head.
      Ignoring the millions of dollars that go from unions to liberal politicians, they haven’t been useful in a century, they’re a detriment to the well being of all industries forced to support them. This is a good way for Toyota to justify shutting down operations in Canada, a country where costs are already so high that manufacturing is dwindling, how you can possibly conceive they need more operating costs is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar

      People are free to look out for their own rational self-interests, and I know it’s fashionable among certain segments of society to crap on WalMart while sipping $7 lattes but the company has long provided goods and jobs to small rural communities where there was nothing even remotely equivalent. It’s also a publicly traded company so if you want to make money off of them you’re certainly free to do so.

      Again people can do what they want and We’re free to buy from whomever whether union made or not. It’s not a factor that I even pay attention to when shopping.

      From a purely academic standpoint i saw the true character of unions when they did the two tier wage agreement. That told me very clearly where their real priorities were and in my view is completely against their purported “principles”.

      Curious though, what is the grievance against this particular plants management that is being addressed by unionization?

  • avatar

    >>There’s a very thin line between bargaining on behalf of your employees and watching your factory get shipped off to a tax abatement granting state in the Southeast U.S.<<

    Or Mexico.

    Australia's high costs are shutting down its indigenous auto manufacturing. Canada may just be a little behind the curve.

    • 0 avatar

      Australia’s costs are high for the same reason Walmart has to pay $17/hr in Fargo, ND.

      There are more productive uses of the local labor force (mining/oil discovery).

  • avatar

    If they do organize and the plant goes union, and if that then causes an issue with quality or production speed, Toyota will simply build another plant in the U.S.

    They have enough land to home 3 more plants in Texas.

    They won’t let this slow them down or hurt them.

  • avatar

    This is a rare case, where I miss Bertel – his insight on this would be a good read.

  • avatar

    I’d be surprised if they managed to organize the Toyota plants. How many times have we heard union leaders boast they’re “on the verge” of organizing a plant by touting the cards? Then, nothing materializes. They’ve been “on the verge” of organizing Honda Alliston for decades now, but the reality remains the majority of the workers are happy with their jobs and don’t want the boat rocked.

  • avatar

    Weren’t their American counterparts also “on the verge” of organizing VW in TN? And then there was an article afterwards saying the UAW was using misleading tactics. Wouldn’t be surprised if the same was here.

  • avatar

    Canada’s an expensive place to build cars until the $CDN goes down again.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    mikey – where are you? I’d like to hear your perspective.

    • 0 avatar

      @SCE to AUX….Oh I’m here. This has been discussed many times here at TTAC. Up to this point in time, the transplants, have treated their employees with respect. Toyota, and Honda have, for the most part matched the union plants with wages benefits, and working conditions.

      Lets face it. The private sector unions are in a fight for thier very survival, while public sector unions are flourishing.

      Toyota is very much aware of this situation. Toyota figures,that with the CAW gone, beating up the work force is fair game.

      Unifor is looking to make a name for itself. Toyota is ripe for picking.

      I’m not making any predictions. Toyota had better clean thier act up, and soon.
      On the other hand, Honda has always been pretty good and seeing what the other guys are doing. They will not make the same mistakes Toyota did.

      This could get interesting.

  • avatar

    I work at the facility and if any one of you would like to do my job for one week, I bet you too will be voting in favour of union representation.
    Personally, I don`t think any one of you would last more than a day!

    • 0 avatar

      Why do you say so, exactly? What could/would CAW going to do for you?

    • 0 avatar

      Supercool, an insider viewpoint!

      Is it not a relatively modern plant in a first world country? What is so bad about your work and what do you expect the union to change for you?

      Genuinely curious because I’ve done some unpleasant jobs for poor pay back in the day do I can imagine a lot.

      What is it rise?

  • avatar

    In Honda’s case, if HCM unionizes, all production moves to Mexico. That’s the way they roll!

  • avatar

    RISESTAR …assuming you really do work at the assembly plant being organized… …you I will listen to. Thanks for chiming in.
    Question: Why can’t more employees of the plants being organized offer up their viewpoints? And… Why can’t employees at more North American plants begin to see things a bit more like the workers at Japanese plants seem to see and understand things? Is it really only in Japan that being confrontational… All the time… Is considered childish and unbecoming? I and many like me want to hear more… Hopefully from both line workers and members of management in the North American plants who have a more “Demming-like” perspective.
    If the Demming Award is the yearly Nobel Prize in Japan for enlightened thinking in the industrial world: Why can’t … No… Better yet: when … Yeah that’s it: …when…will North American thinking become a bit less adversarial and a bit more Demming-Like? If “they ” can do it… Surely we can too.

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