By on February 4, 2019

Image: Unifor/YouTube

There’s no love lost between General Motors and Canadian Detroit Three autoworkers union Unifor. The former plans to shutter the historic Oshawa Assembly plant in Ontario this year, the latter would prefer it didn’t. It would also prefer some product to build there.

Amid the turmoil surrounding GM’s wide-ranging cost-cutting efforts, Unifor released a commercial Sunday slamming GM for abandoning both its workforce and consumers. The title of the ad? “GM leaves Canadians Out In the Cold.”

GM’s message to Unifor? Cool it.

In the ad, aired during the Super Bowl simulcast and on various other mediums, Unifor talks up the multi-billion dollar 2009 bailout, stating that GM Canada’s continued existence is only due to the $300 it took from every Canadian. Meanwhile, the ad continues, GM is expanding production in Mexico — “A move that’s as un-Canadian as the vehicles they now want to sell us.”

The spot ends with a verbal and written statement: “You may have forgotten out generosity, but we’ll never forget your greed.”

Unifor’s prickly ad comes on the heels of a boycott campaign designed to reduce sales of Mexican-made GM vehicles in Canada, with the new Chevrolet Blazer (a vehicle Unifor president Jerry Dias wanted for Oshawa) being top of mind.

In a statement posted Sunday, Dias said GM made attempts to stop the airing of the ad, claiming, “Clearly General Motors doesn’t want Canadians to see this ad. To see its actions and the damage that GM plans to inflict on workers, communities and our national economy if it closes Oshawa.”

“We stand by the belief that if GM wants to sell here then it needs to build here and we will not be intimidated from sharing that message with Canadians in this ad.”

GM Canada confirmed the legal subtext of Dias’ statement in a release of its own, issued the same day:

While GM respects Unifor’s rights to protest, we cannot condone purposely misleading the Canadian public. The new Unifor advertisement scheduled to air during the Super Bowl is misleading and inaccurate. In response, GM can confirm its lawyers lodged a formal demand to Unifor to cease any and all publication of the ad.

Unifor knows that GM Canada repaid its 2009 loans in full, and that the restructured GM fulfilled all the terms of its agreements with the Canadian government many years ago. Since 2009, GM Canada has contributed over $100 billion to the Canadian economy including $8 billion invested into worker pensions.

A decade ago, the Canadian government ponied up $13.7 million to save GM and Chrysler, with some of the funds used to wind down the old companies; other cash was used to create new entities for the two automakers. As of 2017, the country still had $1.2 billion in bailout era auto sector loans on its books, with Chrysler believed to be responsible for most or all of the sum.

[Image: Unifor/YouTube]

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23 Comments on “Shots Fired: GM Sics Lawyers on Autoworkers Union Over ‘Misleading’ Ad...”

  • avatar

    If it had any sense, GM would shut up and not give this campaign any more oxygen. Funnily enough, the reaction from the large group of people I was watching the game with was to laugh at its typically Canadian mildness. Sort of a “gosh darnit-all GM!” vibe. But you’ll notice that it never claimed GM violated the terms of their bailout agreement (only the spirit) so GM has no case anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I’ve seen the ad on-line, it seemed like a classic one-off that would have been quickly forgotten if GM hadn’t turned it into a bigger news story. Kinda reminds me of how they took after Ralph Nader – iirc, that didn’t work out too well for them either

  • avatar

    So, when GM runs a misleading ad (Real People find out GM is more reliable than Honda, Toyota, and whoever else), it’s cool…but when a union runs a “misleading” ad (this one), it’s time for the lawyers?

    Weird take, GM.

    • 0 avatar

      That ad was an outright lie. In fact in the latest issue of Consumer reports the Equinox is ranked dead last in reliability. In fact, Barra has brought back late 70’s reliability to GM.

  • avatar

    GM Canada: “We’re well aware you bailed us out but we are well within our rights to screw you over, and we’ll be damned if we’ll let you besmirch our sterling reputation by publicly voicing your indignation over said screw-job!”

  • avatar

    Now Dias has to find another 6-figure gig. Not easy for a college dropout in his 60s.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    While I get the consternation with GM post bail out and some of the moves they have taken to get in the correct position, I am still a bit baffled. What would be great here at TTAC is some good old fashioned investigative reporting. How about the Truth surrounding the bail outs? How much was repaid, how much is still owed and by whom? I honestly don’t have a clue and would love to know.

    On the flip side, GM gets far more press for being evil than the banks and the bailouts they received. Or, more poignant was the bonuses paid to executives of said companies using bail out dollars. That should enough to get anyones blood boiling, but I find that subject is seldomly discussed. I give you that possibility is due to this being a car site and all, but in the broad scope I really don’t see much ire over those actions.

    • 0 avatar

      I was against the bailouts, handouts and nationalization of GM in the US.

      But it can be argued, and it has by the pro-bailout fans, that the bailouts, handouts and nationalization kept the UAW working and resulted in businesses in the second and third direct and indirect layers of the US auto industry, also employing people, who, in turn paid taxes.

      So, selectively bailing out GM had a positive affect on mortgage companies, banks, auto lenders, etc etc etc all the way down to the local pubs, diners, restaurants, and the everloving McDonalds, because SOME people continued to be employed and spent that money.

      These same bailout zealots will also state that more money has been repaid to the Treasury indirectly than the bailouts cost the taxpayers directly.

      Make up your own minds.

      I continue to be against selective bailouts, handouts and nationalization.

      • 0 avatar

        desert, I have consistently one of those “bailout zealouts.” For me at least, your characterization of my comments is basically accurate.

        I will say this too, though: I too am opposed to “selective bailouts.” Especially when everybody goes nuts over bailouts that saved one million jobs, while saying not a peep about the massively larger bailouts to Wall Street’s “too big to fail” kleptocrat bankers (not saying you’re one of those people, mind you). I’d like to have seen a more pro-worker brand of selectivity.

        • 0 avatar

          tonycd, those financial bailout actions of 2009 are now part of history but the peeps remain divided a decade later over the Wisdom behind them.

          Wall Street’s “too big to fail” kleptocrat bankers were allowed to do what they did, in fact encouraged during Clinton’s reign, to let NINJA loans in support of home ownership to stimulate Community Rebuilding.

          Remember “No Income. No Job. – Approved!”

          Hey, if I was a banker, I’d bundle these shaky, quakey loans, and sell them ASAP.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        I have to say that I am on the fence of the bailouts, though I lean a bit towards anti crowd if you will.

        With that said, what we don’t know is what would our world look like today had the bailouts not happened? Obviously no one knows, and I say our, because the bailout or lack of one affected us all in some fashion or another.

        To my original point, I would like to know the status of repayment. Who has paid, who has not. I am not so interested in the existential benefits of the bailouts. Did you (they) pay the money back?

        • 0 avatar

          It’s not that the “existential benefits” wouldn’t have happened if GM was allowed to die. The “benefits” would’ve happened to Ford/FCA/Toyota/etc, instead and in the neighborhoods surrounding those (now striving, ramped up, expanded, triple shifts, etc) factories, suppliers and dealerships, yes including nearby Mcdonalds.

          Meaning most of the “lost sales” of a non existing, dead GM would’ve gone to other brands, and that’s the part of the equation missing from the argument.

          And yes not every “job” would have been directly transferable to a different automaker, supplier, or dealer (or different Mcdonalds), especially if consumers opt for a new 4Runner over a no longer existing Tahoe let’s say.

          Fleets not so much.

          The bigger story would’ve been about “change”, rather than loss, which to some is a much scarier word.

        • 0 avatar

          87 Morgan, So, GM left the taxpayers on the hook for $11BILLION.

          In the ten years since, the amount of taxes paid to the Treasury by all of the people saved by the bailouts should far exceed the original amount because in the US we live in a multi-TRILLION dollar economy.

          $11BILLION isn’t even a flea-fart moneywise.

          It’s not the money. It never is. It’s the principle of selective bailouts, leaving some people to die business-wise, while keeping the unworthy alive.

          No one cared that Chrysler died, was left to rot, and not bailed out. The US gov’t couldn’t wait to get rid of Chrysler’s carcass. And even BRIBED Fiat to take it. $1.3BILLION!

          And today in the US we have more people working than at any time in its history with over 7.1 million job vacancies, and less than 6 million unemployed.

          We, The People, have to IMPORT workers to fill jobs and pay taxes.

          What a country!

          • 0 avatar

            “$11BILLION isn’t even a flea-fart moneywise.”

            I get your overall point but if you were in hock any amount of money, they would squeeze it out of you until it was paid or you were dead. Why does an evil multinational get a pass?

            “We, The People, have to IMPORT workers to fill jobs and pay taxes”

            You sound like an establishment mouthpiece. H1-Bs are brought here to steal jobs from Americans. The same dbags could be hired abroad and do the work abroad yet they are brought here where they do NOT belong. Its almost as if there’s a plan.

          • 0 avatar

            28CL evil multinationals were encouraged by the US government to conduct this shaky business.

            It was like building on sand. Everybody knew it back then and that’s why those evil people tried to mitigate their own risk exposure by diluting the financial instruments by bundling them.

            By mid-2008 I was out and divested, thanks to my clairvoyant broker. Completely out of the stock market, automakers included.

            I believe it was Iceland that was left holding a rather large bag of worthless financial promissory notes, among many others of course.

            You should know I’m not an establishment mouthpiece. But Silicon Valley, that Bastion of the leftie-libbies ‘crats party is the biggest driver behind the H1-Bs.

  • avatar

    So, I googled “cars assembled in Canada” and got this:

    Is the Ingersoll plant still going to be making the Equinox, or is GM completely pulling up stakes in Canada?

    As a Canadian, if I were buying a new vehicle, I would be tempted to choose from this list, but I’m not sure if that makes sense. Aren’t parts going across the border in both directions, from feeder plants to assembly plants? Is final assembly location really what determines Canadian (or American) content?

  • avatar

    Last paragraph…..$13.7 million should be $13.7 billion…3 orders of magnitude difference.

    • 0 avatar

      Just another day at the TTAC non copy edit factory.

      Canada, for reasons known only to its right wing Conservative Party Prime Minister Harper at the time, came up with fully 20% of the total bailout money for GM and Chrysler in 2009. All detailed in the pages of TTAC at the time.

      Chrysler paid back its money by 2011. The GM shares Canada got for its money never did make it back to par. So like Obama, Harper cashed in the shares for about two-thirds of the bailout sum, and let the taxpayers carry the can for the remainder.

      I back the boycott on GM vehicles in Canada. GM is merely a fairweather friend to US and Canadian taxpayers. Screw ’em.

  • avatar

    I stand with the Union on this .

    I love GM yes but they’re dirtbags .


  • avatar
    Jeff S

    What’s done is done concerning the bailout. If GM goes bankrupt again then the Government should not give them any support. Let them fail and be done with them. Just like Studebaker and AMC they can either go out of business or be acquired by someone else. If Barra and team’s actions do lead to the long term survival of GM then I will be the first to admit I was wrong but for now I am a skeptic.

  • avatar

    So much drama. There are plenty of other car makers.

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