Unifor Planning to Protest General Motors at Detroit Auto Show, UAW Boycotts Blazer

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Things are starting to get truly ugly between Canada’s Unifor and General Motors. On Friday, the union held a rally in Windsor, Ontario, with that automaker’s headquarters just a river away. During the event, Unifor President Jerry Dias expressed his annoyance with the automaker’s restructuring plan and promised to bring the noise to GM’s front door during the North American International Auto Show this week.

Friday’s gathering, which Unifor and the Windsor and District Labour Council claimed drew around 2,000 people despite its brevity, focused primarily on the company’s decision to shift more of its North American production to Mexico and the shuttering of Oshawa Assembly and the end of this year. Dias said he wants the union to work with the automaker to keep Canadian jobs and avoid a potential boycott. Though that might be just around the corner, as the UAW has already issued a boycott of its own within the United States.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes has requested that union members, their families, and just about anybody else who might have union sympathies not purchase the new, Mexican-made Chevrolet Blazer, which recently started arriving in the U.S. Automotive News recently obtained a letter, dated January 4th, from the leader of the union’s UAW-General Motors Department saying he hoped “that not a single UAW member [or] family member ever purchase this vehicle unless it is made in the U.S.A. by our UAW members.”

General Motors responded to the union ire by saying that numerous components in the Blazer, like tuhe engine, are still manufactured at the automaker’s U.S. facilities and noted that other parts of the vehicle supported jobs with several U.S. suppliers. While technically true, it has not swayed the UAW’s general opinion of what’s happening.

“Recent news articles have stated GM is the largest producer of vehicles in Mexico. This comes at the same time [when four] of our U.S. plants are in jeopardy,” Dittes said. “It is my opinion America is with us in this fight to build here what we sell here.”

While Unifor is of a similar mind, it hasn’t gone with the boycott option yet. “The ship hasn’t sailed, because we are not accepting the decision,” Dias told the Windsor crowd on Friday.

However, his tone was anything but positive. During the rally, Dias satirically claimed he wanted to “officially announce that General Motors is changing their name to Greedy Motors” and demanded meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

“We will meet with Mary Barra before this is over,” he proclaimed. “The message that Mary Barra has not met with us yet is one of total disrespect.”

Dias also wants desperately to speak with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who recently suggested there was nothing to be done about the company’s decision to close Oshawa Assembly. That position resulted in harsh criticisms from Dias and Greg Moffatt, plant chair with Unifor Local 222 in Oshawa. Though, the focus of the day remained on GM.

“Shame on you, General Motors,” Moffatt said in Windsor before thanking Canadians for standing behind the Oshawa’s workers.

Last month, Canadian union leaders ran multiple full-page ads in the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News regarding the matter. Unifor has also plead with the automaker’s senior executives in hopes that they could be persuaded replace the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS sedans, as well as the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC pickups, currently built in Oshawa with new product.

From Automotive News:

…GM, which rejected several Unifor proposals the union says would keep the plant operational, is encouraging Unifor to work with it in finding jobs for the 2,600 employees who will be affected by the closure. GM said it is willing to cover the cost for retraining affected employees, and is open to negotiations on packages for workers on top of what is already included in contracts.

The company also said about half of the 2,600 hourly workers are eligible for a pension. Retirement benefits include about $3,500 a month, a $20,000 car voucher, and a lump sum payment of about $50,000, GM spokesman David Paterson said earlier this month.

Unifor officials didn’t specifically say how many are eligible to retire but said not all will meet the requirements for $3,500 a month. Some, the union said, will only get $700 a month.

The automaker is adopting a similar strategy in the United States but also adopted temporary workers to support the launch of new product, rather than helping to relocate employees currently on layoff. UAW leadership alleged this was a breech of contract and the union filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer on January 2nd.

As for Unifor’s upcoming Auto Show protest, Dias said doesn’t want to spoil the surprise but promised the union would deliver a clear message to General Motors’ during NAIAS. “The message has to be — if you want to sell here, you’d better build here,” he said.

[Image: OFL Communications Department/ Wikimedia ( CC BY 2.0)]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 17 comments
  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jan 13, 2019

    This is embarrassing. Instead of staging pathetic protests and demanding restoration meetings, the UAW/Unifor should be negotiating the best exit terms possible for their people.

  • Spike_in_Brisbane Spike_in_Brisbane on Jan 14, 2019

    GM stopped building Holdens in Australia a few years back partly because the large sedan was no longer the people's choice, partly because of the lack of economies of scale caused by the strong Aussie dollar but also partly because the government of the day would not continue to pay the large sums of money to subsidise the jobs. I have heard nothing of the Canadian government's input to GM manufacture or costs. Is there any? P.S. Holden has since slumped from #1 in Aussie sales to about fifth so GM did not do so well out of the action.

  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.
  • Probert When I hear the word "patriot", I think of entitled hateful whining ignorant traitors to democracy. But hey , meant to say "Pass the salt."