By on January 13, 2019

Jerry Dias, Unifor President, Image: OFL Communications Department (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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)]

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17 Comments on “Unifor Planning to Protest General Motors at Detroit Auto Show, UAW Boycotts Blazer...”

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    In Canada GM should agree to building as many vehicles as it sells in Canada. Should be no problem to make that small adjustment to Equinox production.

  • avatar

    that is a very good offer to retire, take it from me. when I was forced to take “the package” back in 2011 it was $10k plus a $5k signing bonus ($15k total) or take a move to Kansas ( from Spring Hill Tn ) at 62 years of age it was a no brainer! even a worker with 10 plus years will get money not the full amount ( according to years of service) however the younger ones will still be able to get training and get another job elsewhere. My friend who worked as a draftsman for 40 years ( is always ribbing me about the UAW) was called into the office along with 5 of his older coworkers, was told they were all being laid off around the same time as I was. “laid off” they replied to the owner, “are we going to be recalled”? “Nope” said the boss, “your all gone as of the end of the week”! that was it 40 years of service a couple of weeks pay and a few months of unemployment!NO pension!NO buyout!

  • avatar

    When high school and college economics classes teach that we have moved past the need for manufacturing… …That we are in a “post-industrial economy”… is it any wonder that the wholesale moving factories out of the country create no backlash?
    “Oh those yukky factory jobs… they would be lost to automation anyway”.
    That is the crime. Teaching such nonsense… as if it any country really needs any engine of wealth. The 1% moves the factories for a one time pile of gold. And the livelihood of thousands is ground into dust. A mere memory from times past. Did I say thousands? 40% of all US manufacturing has met this fate. It’s millions of ruined jobs. Ruined families. Ruined aspirations of the common man. Now it’s Canada’s turn. Have fun guys… what Canada is about to experience isn’t a pretty sight. Just look at America’s rust belt. It’s a lot worse than the media let’s on.
    Ross Perot was right. All NAFTA did is allow the 1% to get away with murder… the literal killing off of what once made countries great.

  • avatar

    I’ve just mailed in my comment; hope to see it here Tuesday or Wednesday!

  • avatar

    Holy Crap! Half of these whiny Oshawa workers will get a pension of $3500 a month plus a car voucher plus other money? What the hell are they whining about? I’ve worked 29 years in a different industry and all I have to show for it is a 401k of my own money, no pensions, no medical, nada. This is why I’ve never and never will buy something built by UAW hands. They have always been and always will act Entitled. Oh, by the way, give us other US taxpayers back the 10 billion dollars it took to save your sorry ass jobs 10 years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      @labelnerd ….$3500 a month ? – $290 surviving spouse benefit -Provincial and Federal Tax – $30 Health Care Trust premium = $2721. a month .

      At age 65 GM pulls the supplement of $1004. = $ 2000. a month after deductions …Frozen at 2009 level.

      I’m glad to have it.

    • 0 avatar

      labelnerd – Nissan workers also get a pension and medical benefits when they retire in fact it wasn’t long ago they were paying some workers up to $100k to “take the package” blame them also!!!! maybe you also were in the wrong or should I say “different” industry!

  • avatar

    “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.”

    China’s been sending that message for years! It’s worked out pretty well for them.

  • avatar

    I have a tough time believing that Mary gives a damn whether or not UAW members boycott the Blazer. I’d be far more concerned about what those UAW members are doing, or not doing, on the production lines knowing each passing day brings them that much closer to the unemployment line.

    Oh well, at the very least it sounds like the last January NAIAS could be a memorable one.

  • avatar

    Because it’s GMs fault that the market has shifted and nobody is buying the cars they make.

    This is what makes unions look so bad.

  • avatar

    Technology is moving so fast such that having a human on an assembly line is no longer required. I bet advancement in automation can now replace a good bit of those 2600 humans. 2600. The irony. Anyone remembers the Atari 2600?

    • 0 avatar

      Mr.EpMini9 – I drive by the Nissan plant about 3/4 times a week, the parking lot is jam packed with workers cars, help wanted signs posted also and plenty of jobs posted on Craiglist begging for workers supplying parts to that plant! robots can’t do it all, at least not at this time!

  • avatar

    protests don’t work, just ask the workers from Columbia.

    WWWD? What Would Walter Do? Shut ’em Down!

  • avatar

    I’m not pro-union, but I support fighting for “buy here, build here” principle for autos.. As far as goods that we buy in stores like Walmart “that ship has sailed long ago” but for high ticket autos, American and Canadian citizens should consider appropriate actions ( ie boycott products made in Mexico etc.)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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