TTAC Matinee: Final Offer

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

Friend of TTAC Michael Banovsky sent along this link to Final Offer, a documentary about the 1984 negotiations between the Canadian arm of the UAW and General Motors.

Told from the perspective of both union brass and rank-and-file members, the doc explores both the labor-management relationship, as well as the strife between the UAW’s Canadian and American arms, which led to the eventual creation of the separate Canadian Autoworkers Union – which is now Unifor, an amalgamated private sector union which came about through a merger between the CAW and other unions. Looking back, it’s easy to see that Final Offer was made at a pivotal moment in the history of the auto industry in North America, and gives us a look at a world that most of us (save for commenter Mikey) will never see: that of an hourly assembly line worker.

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  • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Jun 06, 2014

    Fantastic, thanks for sharing. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The eerie thing while watching this was all the names of plants that they were rattling off that are no longer in operation. Windsor trim and transmission, St. Therese, Scarborough Van, Diesel London, Oshawa truck. The GM landscape in Canada is certainly much different now than 30 years ago.

    • Tresmonos Tresmonos on Jun 06, 2014

      The manufacturing landscape in general. I'm a sucker for nostalgia. After watching this I wish I was born 30 years prior.

  • Mikey Mikey on Jun 06, 2014

    @danio3834... Oshawa Fab is gone, as is Battery. The plant in the film was the new Oshawa #2 in 84, next door was the old Oshawa B. Today a shadow of its former self. Even the CAW is gone. 36,000 GM Canada in 84. Today? maybe 7,000?. Yes, you could say things have changed. BTW. They don't make union leaders like Bob White anymore. In spite of more than a few F bombs, the dude was polished. Always clean shaven,and well dressed. I for one was proud to have him as our leader.

    • See 1 previous
    • Ect Ect on Jun 08, 2014

      @CJinSD Ultimately, the fate of every business is determined by management, and GM's demise was the result of bad management. A relative of my wife retired from GM in 2006 or 2007, after a career in HR - initially in Canada, then in the US. At the time, he described GM's approach to labour relations in both countries as "the union tells us what they want, and we rant and rave about how impossible it is to give them anything close to that. Then we cave, and give it to them". In that kind of culture, you can't blame the union.

  • Mikey Mikey on Jun 06, 2014

    CJ It was 30 fkn years ago! That was my opinion then, and that's my opinion now. Why is it you right wing a$$holes can never understand. That somebody may just have different view than yourself?

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    • FreedMike FreedMike on Jun 08, 2014

      @CJinSD And of course, none of these brilliant actions by management had any kind of impact on those union folks losing their jobs: 1) GM and Ford doggedly producing their meat-and-potatoes cars in the compact and midsize segments with the same basic platforms and mechanicals...for DECADES. GM was still producing variants of the J-body Cavaliers until 2004, and the GM10 variants weren't phased out until very recently. Ford built the Taurus on the same basic platform from 1986 to 2008. They basically abandoned this market segment to the Japanese makers. 2) Bombs like the Aztek. 3) Poor styling 4) Poor engineering 5) Poor marketing 6) Chrysler's executives letting the company get blitzkrieged, sucked dry of capital, and then left for dead by Daimler. 7) GM and Ford spending the multi-billion-dollar windfall from the SUV/truck craze on takeovers of the likes of Fiat, Saab, Volvo, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Range Rover, versus sinking those funds into aforementioned long-neglected vital products. Instead of actually improving their product, they chose to play Gordon Gekko instead. The Fiat deal ALONE cost GM $2 AVOID taking over Fiat's auto unit! 8) GM running up 90 BILLION in debt (and cement-headed ideas like the Fiat buyout played right into this). 9) GM and Chrysler utterly failing to even try to recapitalize before the credit markets disintegrated. Did unions put a gun to anyone's heads and make them do ANY of this incredibly stupid stuff? Not to my recollection. But you keep on trolling, CJ...

  • OldWingGuy OldWingGuy on Jun 09, 2014

    I'm posting this fairly late, so I doubt anyone will even see it (Mikey ? CJ ?). First off, I have no skin in this game, either way. I only had the opportunity to watch the first 15 min of the film. I will make a point of returning later to watch the complete film. Its an NFB production, so probably fairly unbiased. What I watched was interesting. FreedMike makes some very good points, ultimately this is a Management issue. As FreedMike points out, upper management made some horrible, costly decisions.To add insult to injury, I suspect many of them received healthy bonuses year after year. In hindsight, what Management really needed to do was accept a lengthy strike, which would have driven them to near bankruptcy. The shareholders would never stand for it, although comically that is what happened anyway. However, the Union can not be totally absolved - they too were part of the problem instead of part of the solution. The ever-escalating demands, featherbedding, protecting incompetent workers, etc. In hindsight, the Union needed to take a different tack, and fight for proper R&D, etc. Yes, i know, this is not the traditional Union fight. But look at what tradition got them. As CJ pointed out, the CAW is a shadow of its former self, this is as ineffective leadership as GM itself. The CAW is gone now, merging with CEP to form Unifor, in an attempt to keep membership up to some reasonable level. So what is happening now ? GM is enjoying some good times (it must be nice to exit bankruptcy with $billions$ in tax-loss carry forwards, a first I expect in bankruptcy proceedings), a near-record high SAR (everyone's a genius in a bull market), so is flush with cash. What do we see - UAW looking to end the two-tier pay structure (better get rid of that before the lower-tier folks outnumber the top-tier, or look out UAW leadership), and the UAW chasing around after the transplants. Same old same old. The only question remains - how long before GM runs aground again ? With their free money and tax-loss carry forward, GM should be good for I figure, 10 more years. But don't kid yourself, nothing at GM has been solved. Nothing.