By on January 25, 2019

GMC Vice President Global Sales and Marketing Duncan Aldred introduces the 2018 Terrain and Terrain Denali Sunday, January 8, 2017, on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. The compact SUV's shape was refined in the wind tunnel to ensure its new profile cuts through the air with optimal efficiency and quietness. The Terrain is available with three new turbocharged propulsion systems, including a new 1.6L turbo-diesel. The 2018 Terrain will go on sale this summer. (Photo by John F. Martin for GMC)

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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43 Comments on “Building a Wall: Unifor Announces Boycott of Mexican-made GM Vehicles...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    So GM will sell 18 of these, instead of 20?

    • 0 avatar
      civicjohn

      In other news, the sky is blue.

      I’m sure Mrs. Barra is quaking in her boots. It’s like me saying “I hereby boycott American Airlines”. Even though I’ve flown 1.4 million miles and am lifetime Gold status, do you really think they give a crap or if it will impact their revenues? I kinda doubt it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Given GM’s 17% market share, Unifor’s small membership, the fact that probably only 5% of them would buy a new car this year, and the fraction of GM vehicles which actually are made in MX, we’re talking about a very small number of vehicles.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Unless Unifor can convince Hertz, National and Enterprise (not sure if they’re all one company at this point) to not buy these things, it’s gonna be a tough sled to make a dent in sales.

    Other than rental car agencies, it’s GM’s employees that are buying/leasing these, no?

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Jkross22

      Sonic, Cruze & Impala

      If you’re going to troll please put some thought into it.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Don’t forget Malibu!

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        The Impala and Cruze and Sonic are *dead*, even if the Impala will be produced until June 1.

        Thus they’re … weird examples to pick for “really popular cars that real humans actually buy”?

        (GCBC says the Impala is selling at around 4k/mo in the US, and 3-400 in Canada.

        There’s a reason they killed it.

        Nobody was buying it.

        The Cruze does significantly better (about 3x the sales), but still not good enough.

        The Sonic sold under a thousand units per month in the US at the end of 2018, and was down to two digits in Canada in September.

        Please explain to me how these cars are Actually Really Popular With Normies.)

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    Best way to change their mind is with threats and blockades.

    Sound logic, Jerry.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Is that guy making farting noises with his hands?

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    GM is in business to make money (to enrich the CEO and top mgt).

    GM calculated the costs and concluded it could lower them by shifting production to Mexico. If we sell X vehicles a year, and Y are made in low-cost Mexico vs high-cost US/Canada, our bottom line improves by Z dollars.

    Very logical for GM.

    But perhaps the analysis was static, and the General assumed no impact to sales of moving out.

    Unifor is but a tiny sliver of Canada. Oshawa is in the path of an otherwise expanding GTA-Greater Toronto Area.

    However, GM, and most Americans, would be wise to consider that many Canadians are skeptical of the US in general, and GM in particular.

    As with Americans in the USA, there are some Canadians who will NEVER buy a GM product because GM was bailed out by taxpayers.

    Now, more Canadians will think, ‘ey, we bailed them out and they’re closing our plants’. They won’t buy GM.

    So, if GM has considered this in their calculus, they are OK. But most of these calculations are static; the world is dynamic.

    To blithely assume that there would be no reaction from Canadian (or US) labor unions would be naïve… but not surprising

    Cheaper labor isn’t free…it’s gonna cost some sales north of the Rio Grande.

    And I don’t need to do any analysis to know that those lost sales, in terms of dollars and volume, won’t be made up for with increased Mexican sales.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Exactly.

      It astounds me the luxury brands are moving production to Mexico. Unless you are giving me a discount, I’m not paying European car prices for vehicles made using cheap labor.

    • 0 avatar
      JoDa

      It’s to enrich shareholders…CEO and top management are employees, not owners.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      “Cheaper labor isn’t free…it’s gonna cost some sales north of the Rio Grande.
      And I don’t need to do any analysis to know that those lost sales, in terms of dollars and volume, won’t be made up for with increased Mexican sales.”

      I couldn’t have said it better TomLU86… These plant closings were made more for cost savings than due to changing American consumer tastes. GM could have just as easily moved some Mexico Silverado production back to the US and closed plants south of the border, but that isn’t going to happen because labor is much cheaper and environmental regs are nonexistent in Mexico.

      There will be fallout, of course. Most Americans and Canadians do not want cars built in Mexico, and even fewer want any vehicles built in China. I am not too sure that expanding Mexico and China production while shuttering production in the US and Canada (who both bailed GM out a decade ago) is a great strategic move for GM – especially in today’s political climate.

  • avatar

    Trust me the Blazer is a pretty mediocre and probably won’t be a big sales hit. In September I sat in a Blazer and was shock how cheap it felt compared to the competition. In comparison the RAV 4 felt like a top of the line Lexus.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Props Jerry for following through.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “GM is arrogant enough to think it can rob Canada of jobs without repercussions”

    Someone doesn’t seem to know how “jobs” work, or that nations don’t “own’ them.

    But, well, hey. Union leader – he has very strong incentives to not know either of those things.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Also, you might want “denies”, not “refutes” at the end.

      Denying a claim is saying it’s false., which he did.

      Refuting it is *showing* that it’s false, which he did not do.

    • 0 avatar
      JoDa

      If they did, they would start their own competing company cuz they are just more awesomer.

      Ops, I used that dirty word that union goons hate…Compete.

  • avatar
    FrankE39

    This makes me wonder about the assembly quality in Oshawa for the balance of the year.
    I suspect it’s an easy way to workers got “get back” at GM, by not doing everything they should.

    I feel bad for the worker’s loosing their job, but a business can’t ignore MUCH lower costs…

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      It’s always sad to see workers lose their jobs, but that is the reality of business.

      Employers owe no loyalty to workers. Employers are in business to maximize their profits for the owners and shareholders. Employees do not have any skin in the game unless they are shareholders as well.

      Employees are free to seek employment elsewhere; employers do not have that flexibility because they MUST turn a profit or go under, like GM and Chrysler did in 2008.

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        Employers are free to reallocate capital.

        That is a lot easier than for people to relocate to where the jobs are.

        Of course, employers don’t ‘owe’ employees jobs. But this particular employer would have gone under with taxpayer subsidies–which were predicated on saving jobs.

        It’s easy to sympathize with those who are losing their jobs, when I look at the strategies GM is following, and the compensation of GM’s CEO and top execs.

        The CEO, and most of her top proteges, are GM lifers. Without a bailout, if THEY had been able to land a job 10 years ago, it would be several notches below wherever they were at GM.

        They had decent products in the pipeline. Having the US (and Canada) fund their bankruptcy allowed GM to prune dealerships, makes, and plants and employees, things that GM’s then-mgt, including many who are now at the top, were apparently unable to do on their own.

        So, when GM’s mgt screws up, and the masses pay, even some one with libertarian tendencies can’t help but empathize with the masses.

        Oshawa was always one of GM’s better, or BEST, plants. I understand that when the product isn’t selling, you reevaluate. But the workers and their salaried managers (in the plant) didn’t design or market the Impala. They didn’t decide to jack up the price 50% AND put it in TWO plants (before, the old, cheaper car was built in one plant).

        GM could have given Oshawa more product, but they don’t like Unifor. OK, I get it.

        Labor costs, you say. OK. How about CEO cost–and performance? Let’s compare Mr. Toyoda to Ms Barra? Why does GM’s board pay more for poorer performance? Or is GM making more money than Toyota?

  • avatar
    Asdf

    But assembling crappy Chinese-made parts into crappy vehicles ostensibly “made” in North America is OK?

  • avatar
    JoDa

    Ouch! That’s going to hurt GM!

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Make ’em where you sell ’em is what the US made Japan do back in the 1980s under Reagan.

    Is Mexico well-off enough to buy the vehicles all these companies turn out? No, it’s just a scam to save a few hundred bucks utilising cheap labor. The corporate world already did in gonzo style tby outsourcing US jobs to China, and then turned around to complain about this and that. Politicians, with their usual grasp of a situation, i.e. none whatsoever, believed the big business cabal and end up blaming a country for what their big bucks corporate friends pulled off on their fellow countrymen in the first place. History and knowledge of what happened in the past – absolutely zero. Guess who smiles all the way to the bank …

  • avatar
    jatz

    I want to know why we can now only have slit windows between the C and D pillars.

  • avatar

    uphill climb. I’ll do what I can.

    B

  • avatar
    deanst

    Where’s jack when you need him?

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    Check out Australia. We went through all this 5 years before Canada. GM (Holden) was #1 in market share. Closed all their plants. Now they are a bit player. Maybe it helped the shareholders and maybe Wall St was happy. We just buy Toyotas and BMWs now.

  • avatar
    Scott

    Management is already moving to other positions in the company, so I don’t think this is going to change anything. The union needs to be negotiating for the best transition package that they can

  • avatar
    thelaine

    GM management and unions have suicide pact.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Historically Canada was a good place for vehicle assembly and powertrain manufacturing.
    The (usually) lower value Canadian currency and govt health coverage made Canadian labor very competitive.
    But they certainly can’t compete with Mexican plants paying 3 to 8 bucks an hour.

  • avatar
    Baker Lanes

    Might be a moot point. 70,000 workers at the maquiladoras in Matamoros, Mexico are on strike. Started as a wildcat walk-out on Jan. 12 and was sanctioned by their union Friday Jan. 25. Oddly, not a peep about it in the mainstream media even though it’s the biggest strike in North America in 20 years.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    tomLU86–Agree completely. Mary Barra is an employee of GM and Hackett is an employee of Ford. If either were owners that would be one thing but why shouldn’t their jobs be outsourced. Not that hard to find a more competent CEO from another country for a lot less than 25 million.

    It is too easy to just blame the workers and higher wages. True the union leadership does not represent all the workers they have their own agenda but so does the board and the CEO. Higher pay and bonuses based on earning per share and stock price gives the CEO and board have an incentive to go for short term profits and to ignore long term viability. A company or corporation use to strive to make a good product and a fair price while making a profit. A company’s survival was dependent on a quality product that customers would buy again. The CEOs and board for the most part want to get as much out of their corporations while they can and don’t care what happens to that corporation once they are gone. Iacocca writes about this in a book “Where Have All The Leaders Gone?.” Not saying Iacocca was perfect but he did care about the corporations he worked for and had a passion for the product.

    You do have a choice to buy products made in the US and Canada. Just because a corporation is based in Japan, South Korea, or Germany doesn’t mean they don’t make vehicles in the US and Canada. It is not just where a corporation is based it is where the products are made. True you might not find a vehicle with 100 percent US produced parts but then that is also true for most other products. As for stockholders every major corporation is owned by stockholders around the globe so just because a corporation like GM and Ford are US based does not mean all their stockholders are US citizens. If you don’t like what GM, Ford, and FCA are doing you don’t have to buy their products or you can choose only to buy their products made in the US and Canada. You also have the right to not care and buy a product regardless of where it is made. You can choose with you wallet.

    I have bought GM and Ford products most of my life but I do not feel blind loyalty to them. I will more likely buy Hondas, Toyotas, Hyundais, and Kias that are made in the US and Canada. I don’t really have loyalty to Mary Barra and Hackett and their boards. If I like one of their products and want to buy one I will but I am not blindly loyal to a brand and waving a flag because that corporation is US based means little to me especially when the US flag they put on their product is made in China.

  • avatar
    LTDwedge

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

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    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?


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