Building a Wall: Unifor Announces Boycott of Mexican-made GM Vehicles

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
building a wall unifor announces boycott of mexican made gm vehicles

Two days after blockading roads leading to General Motors’ Canadian headquarters, autoworkers union Unifor rolled out an invisible wall to be placed between Canadians and GM vehicles built south of the Rio Grande.

The union’s call to boycott Mexican-made GM products doesn’t come as a surprise; Unifor president Jerry Dias threatened it in the past as a way of prodding corporate bosses in Detroit to keep the century-old Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant open. With the union now escalating its protest action, the boycott call is out. GM Canada isn’t happy about it, claiming it will only end up hurting Canadian workers.

Under current plans, all product heading into Oshawa will dry up by the end of 2019. That includes the legacy versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, Cadillac XTS, and Chevrolet Impala. Those products are dead and, with their departure, so is Oshawa Assembly. Unifor feels there’s still a chance to change GM’s mind.

“GM is arrogant enough to think it can rob Canada of jobs without repercussions,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in statement. “GM is making a choice to increase manufacturing in Mexico while it abandons communities that have supported it for generations, but make no mistake Canadian and American consumers also have a choice.”

Dias railed against GM following the company’s decision to turn out the lights at three North American car plants. Oshawa has been bleeding product for years, leaving its future in doubt even before the union reached a new collective agreement in 2016. The union prez claims that, while investment in Canada dwindled, GM’s Mexican assembly operations took off, fueled by an automaker intent on reaping the rewards of low-wage labor.

Chevrolet’s 2019 Blazer, which Dias said should have gone to Oshawa, is instead built in Mexico. The union has issued a product guide showing supporters which vehicles use Unifor or UAW labor.

“If GM closes Oshawa, by 2020 the company will have cut annual production in Canada by 418,000 vehicles (67 per cent), while increasing annual production in Mexico by 304,000 vehicles (47 per cent) since before the announced Mexican expansion,” Unifor wrote.

Touting union-made vehicles is hardly a new thing, and one wonders how broadly the boycott message might resonate. Speaking to The Detroit News, Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, said, “It’s an effective message for a small population of people, but I don’t know how much impact it can have.”

In response to Unifor’s boycott call, GM Canada issued a release. “In today’s integrated auto industry, a call for a boycott of Mexico made automobiles, if successful, could create collateral damage across the wider Ontario economy which has over 60 Ontario-based auto parts companies supporting Mexico production,” the company stated. “GM is also one of 10 automotive companies that import vehicles from Mexico and is among five who also build here in Canada.”

It added, “GM Unifor members make North American transmissions in St. Catharines and stamp body panels in Ingersoll that go into Mexican made vehicles sold in Canada.”

Dias refutes the claim that a boycott would hurt Canadian workers.

The Oshawa assembly plant, which opened in 1907, employs 2,600 workers.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • LTDwedge LTDwedge on Jan 27, 2019

    All metal cars thank you. barely plastic, just metal.

  • TDIGuy TDIGuy on Jan 28, 2019

    Pardon the ignorance, but that's a big list. Would it not be easier to list what cars ARE made in Mexico? Or is this really not about cars made in Mexico, but actually cars not made by Unifor/UAW labour? Alternatively, are any non-American brand cars (i.e Japan, European) built in American unionized factories?

  • Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.
  • Art_Vandelay “We skipped it because we didn’t think anyone would want to steal these things”-Hyundai
  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
  • El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.