By on August 31, 2020

FCA Brampton Assembly Line Challenger & 300 - Image: FCA

Unifor, the union representing autoworkers in the Greater South Detroit Area (GSDA, also known as Canada), has voted to add a walkout to its list of bargaining tools. The union’s membership, unsurprisingly, voted to allow their bargaining committees to threaten or initiate a strike if Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler don’t pony up at the table.

There’s a good possibility Unifor members might get a chance to exercise this time-honored tactic of organized labor, if last fall’s GM walkout in the U.S. is any indication. And we all know that Canada, which has already lost plenty of auto manufacturing in past decades, has a lot more to lose.

“Our members voted overwhelmingly to support their bargaining committees and our bargaining priorities, including; job security, product commitments and economic gains for all members” said Unifor President Jerry Dias. “We will continue to push our agenda at the bargaining table, but remind government that they have an active role to play in securing our auto industry’s future. A future made in Canada“.

Not only did last year see American GM workers walk off the job for six weeks (doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago?), it also saw the end of vehicle manufacturing at the automaker’s Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant. The automaker’s CAMI plant in Ingersol, Ontario is down to one product, the Chevrolet Equinox, which is also built for less money in Mexico.

No member of the Detroit Three has a firm hold on Canadian soil anymore. Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant builds minivans for a market increasingly shunning the bodystyle. Its Brampton facility cranks out the ancient Dodge Charger and Challenger, as well as the doomed Chrysler 300.

Full-size, rear-drive passenger cars. In 2020.

At Ford, rumors swirl around the the future of Oakville Assembly, located just west of Toronto. Home to the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus, word has it that the models will disappear at the end of their current product cycle in order to prevent overcrowding in the brand’s utility vehicle stable. Electric mid-size SUVs are also said to be on the way, likely taking their place.

For Unifor, which kicked off talks on August 12th, the latest round of bargaining amounts to securing a Canadian car-building pledge from all three. Product has dried up by that much.

The union plans to announce its strike target “on or around” Labor Day, revealing which company will set the stage for contracts hammered out with the other two. It added that it “will continue negotiations with that company until reaching a settlement and no later than the strike deadline on September 21 at 11:59 p.m.”

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39 Comments on “Strike Action Now in the Toolbox As Detroit Three Bargaining Continues in Canada...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “We will… remind government that they have an active role to play in securing our auto industry’s future”

    They do? So you’re going to actively seek concessions from the mfrs *and* more corporate welfare from the government? No surprise there; I guess that how it always plays.

    Go ahead and strike; the only critical product I saw listed above is the Charger and Challenger. FCA should turn up the production volume to 11 for the next few weeks.

    The union has almost no leverage. It’s a matter of time until the mfrs leave Canada, and then Unifor can declare victory.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      So what are the options?

      GM closing down Oshawa demonstrated that being the best at their jobs, won’t save workers when there are other workers in 2nd and 3rd world nations willing to do the job for much less money, albeit with far more defects and inferior quality.

      Prior to NAFTA we had the Auto Pact which enshrined that for every vehicle sold by the D3 in Canada, they had to manufacture one in Canada.

      Is that so unfair?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “Is that so unfair?”

        Things have changed since those days. Today there is a long-overdue focus on American nationalism and pride with the realization that many prior agreements with America’s trading partners were not fair for America, or to America.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          The USA grew rich through its economic control over the economies of other nations. The American government forced Britain to pay in full its purchases and loans after WWI and therefore gained control of many investments that previously made the British rich. Profits rolled into the USA and American companies expanded internationally, often buying up the local competition.

          Even now some American states pay less for electricity generated in Canada, than does the local Canadian population.

          The Canada-USA Auto Pact was mutually beneficial. Ford, GM and Chrysler profited handsomely in Canada. Check out the market share controlled by the D3 during and after the Auto Pact. It was replaced by NAFTA, which was created partially due to the friendship between President Reagan and PM Mulroney.

          Many times I have stated that I believe in ‘fair’ trade, and not ‘free’ trade with nations that do not have the rule of law in place, or democracy. That is not racist, many of these nations are predominantly Caucasian.

          But North American workers cannot and should not be expected to try to compete based on wages with workers in 2nd and 3rd world nations. The drastic decline in their income and living conditions would only create more social problems in North America.

          • 0 avatar
            Imagefont

            Newsflash: manufacturing tries to move to the lowest cost environment. Cars are not special, no one cares about quality. Quality is designed into the manufacturing process, it’s not lovingly put there by devoted workers. This is why you can’t buy a Canadian built washing machine, or coffee maker, or cell phone. China and Mexico and others are cheaper. Now, there may be other factors at work that might make manufacturing in a higher cost environment beneficial, and those factors could be artificial – like tariffs – but eventually money finds a way, like water flowing down hill. Canadian autoworkers can be retrained to do something else.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Arthur, like I said, things have changed since Nov 8, 2016. New management, new economic priorities, and the chips will fall where they may.

            Previous American administrations didn’t care about the American workers affected by the outsourcing brought about by their national economic policy, and now the shoe is on the other foot.

            When President Trump gets re-elected we’ll see American economic policies which will change the global trading relations like never before.

            Just look at the changes that have already occurred over the past four years. Change on ‘roids!

            Stay tuned. The years 2021-2025 under President Trump will be life changing in more ways than one.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Imagefont, look for India, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Singapore and Israel to assume many of the trade resulting from a decoupling of America from China.

            Hong Kong is headed for a financial collapse since President Trump has stopped the financial incentives and initiatives since the ChiComs broke their Treaty with England.

          • 0 avatar
            Imagefont

            Highdesertcat
            Trump can make a lot of noise about realigning trade, and do a lot of boasting and tell a great many lies – his main export – but trends last much longer than administrations and as president he can only do so much. He can’t bring back coal, for example, because the market will decide that – as it should. And his tit for tat tariffs with China make him look tough in the eyes of his supports who don’t know any better but they really result in a zero sum gain. Lots of cars are built in the US, a lot of Japanese cars for example, and they do it competitively. And there are many factors to consider besides just merely an hourly wage. My experience with Mexico for example is that most things cost more, like raw materials, and it’s really only labor that’s cheaper. There’s only one gas station in Mexico for example: Pemex! And it charges more for gas than you’ll find it in any US state. Most of the cost of building a car is not labor. I don’t know what an auto worker is “worth” in terms of wages but probably a good deal less than what Unifor wants and has successfully bargained for in the past, so that will inevitably change. Canada could put up their own trade barriers and tariffs to make manufacturing in Canada – and selling those cars in Canada – more viable. Canada loves pickup trucks more than Texans!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Imagefont, the changes that President Trump has wrought on the global trade scale have extracted their toll.

            Four more years can bring many more changes. Not all good for America’s trading partners, unless they play ball, like China did on trade. But that was BEFORE the China virus.

            But you are right in that a change in US administration often will also result in a change of economic policy priorities.

            I like the changes in US economic policy over the last four years, and I hope they will continue for at least four more years.

            Then again, I can also see the dim view that America’s trading partners have taken because of the loss of the trade advantages they enjoyed for so many decades.

            “Canada loves pickup trucks more than Texans!” That is something I did not know.

      • 0 avatar

        Arthur Dailey, are you against free trade. In other words do you support Trump policies?

        “workers in 2nd and 3rd world nations willing to do the job for much less money”

        It is the utterly racist statement. You want to say that people in so called “2nd and 3rd world nations” or in other words 2nd and 3rd class humans have no right to earn decent living?

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          He is not against free trade. He’s against the change that is happening because President Trump is re-aligning America’s trade priorities and American car makers are following suit.

          Americans who lost their jobs to outsourcing know the feeling.

          Things are changing but the best is yet to come, for America.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “Americans who lost their jobs to outsourcing know the feeling.”

            I think you’ll have a hard time finding American autoworkers that lost their jobs from Canadian outsourcing. Many of those plants were operating before even you were born and the others were operating before I was born.

          • 0 avatar

            My understanding was than American companies could not (and still cannot) compete with Japanese and German automakers. It had nothing to do with moving job to “2nd and #rd world countries”.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Trump is losing the war that Reagan won. By alienating other democratic nations, Trump has left some of them once again open to threats/blackmail from Russia. Or to monetary/trade enticements from China.

            Trump’s first round of tariffs cost America billions of dollars. Billions were required to subsidize American agriculture. Millions to offset aluminium/steel tariffs.

            Tariffs can work if applied in a planned, logical and systematic matter. The current administration has proven incapable of that. 90% turnover among staff. When a manager experiences excess turnover in any well run company the blame is placed on the manager.

            Free trade works if the nations involved have comparable standards of living. And if they share the same respect for the rule of law. Free trade with a dictatorship only strengthens the ruling junta. Free trade with a 2nd or 3rd world nation increases corporate profits, while reducing jobs in the more prosperous nation.

            By the way, what American car makers are left? Chrysler is a European controlled company. GM’s largest market for cars is China. Ford is perhaps the only ‘American’ company left.

            Yes Trump may be re-elected due to how divisive American society has become. However as Lincoln quoted from the Bible “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.

            And we on the outside grieve for what we see happening to the USA.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @HDC – “One shot wonder” has nothing to do with what @Arthur Daily is talking about. NAFTA hurt Canadian manufacturing jobs just like it hurt American manufacturing jobs. It reeks of ignorance to lump Canadian manufacturing in with “outsourced” manufacturing to 2nd or 3rd world countries with considerably lower standards of living.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Isn’t there a lot more to it than assembly wages? What do strikes cost?

            If we’re just talking final assembly, regardless of location or spoken language, even engines plants, consumer level defects and quality problems likely originated way upstream.

            Every time they go on strike, they have to know they’re cutting their own throats.

            Isn’t it a ‘get all you can while you can’ situation?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            ajla, I should have been more clear. American jobs that were outsourced to other countries, not specifically to Canada.

            The pain, the insecurity, the loss of self-worth, the self doubt, are the same after the loss of a job/career, no matter where the job was outsourced to.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Lou_BC, we each have our own point of view on this topic and that’s why this national election is so important, not only to America, but also to global trading.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Arthur, “we on the outside grieve for what we see happening to the USA.”

            It may surprise to know that many Americans are not grieving alongside of you.

            In fact, there are a number of Democrat mayors and governors who have openly expressed their gratitude for the jobs in their states that President Trump’s economic policies have initiated.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          So, pointing out that workers in other countries make less than they do in the U.S. is racist?

          No, it isn’t. Developing countries have a lower standard of living, therefore their workers make less.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            FreedMike, cancel-culture calls everything racist that they don’t agree with.

          • 0 avatar

            FreedMike, yes it is racist because you deny well being for people who do not conform to your culture. How Western European culture is superior to other cultures? Lower standards of living does not mean that people have to be denied of jobs and let die from hunger.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Arthur Dailey – I agree. something like the Auto Pact should be held over the heads of the auto companies like the sword of Damocles. You close plants, you can’t sell here.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Steph ….Just to clarify, CAMI Ingersoll is under a different agreement. The few hundred left in Oshawa are covered under the main agreement..Oshawa Stamping still produces Equinox body sides, so a strike would impact the last GM assembly plant left in the country.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “So what are the options?”

        @Arthur Dailey: IMO, the best the union can do is negotiate good exit terms for its members when the plants close.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Go ahead, geniuses, strike yourselves out of good pay and benefits. You’ll show those greedy automakers how far you’re willing to go in the name of job security.

    Some lessons are never learned.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Yes, this is starting to look like the last days of the old Hostess Company. Workers turned down concessions to keep the company alive, including a big bakery in Maine. The company went bankrupt and it’s assets sold.

      Investment companies bought enough to restart a couple bakeries making Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies, but not the biggest bakeries like the one in Maine.

      With debt discharged and labor contracts dissolved, the new company went public, using its old name, purchased at auction. Most of the old bakeries remained closed and their union labor out of work. Smaller, newer and more efficient bakeries with lower cost labor are able to meet demand and the new company can now turn a profit.

      The Canadian auto industry looks like it’s going to go down the same road.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        A Mexican firm picked up Hostess and Hostess is doing better now than at any time in their heyday.

        I love my Hostess Cupcakes and my wife loves her Twinkies. We buy some every week – just as before, before the union drove Hostess out of business.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Memo to Canada: Annex the U.S. (or selected parts of it) Now! (or Soon).

    (There might be an opportunity coming up – if I were Her Majesty’s Government, I’d be evaluating which pieces look promising.) [I wouldn’t count on Texas.]

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @ToolGuy – LOL…. Ironically in Canada Quebec has managed to extract concessions from the Federal government by threatening to leave on several occasions. We now have some in Alberta threatening to leave. They blame Federal policies for their current problems but it is their own fault. They squandered the billions they got from oil revenues.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      ToolGuy, The Republic of Texas is where it is happening now. That’s why I moved to El Paso, TX.

      Just the reduction in taxes was worth the move.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        That’s near Dallas, right?

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Nein, Nein, Nein.

          It is the tip of West Texas.

          And the influx of people from the East Coast and California into Texas is mind boggling, especially around Dallas, Waxahachie, Austin, Brownsville, San Antonio.

          They say that Florida is also experiencing a huge influx of people leaving NY, NJ, and other Eastern States.

          My sister has considered selling their property in West Palm Beach, and we are selling our property in the desert of NM to someone, sight unseen.

          Unbelievable! People going crazy outbidding each other.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Two points ; Don’t read too much into the strike vote. The outcome is always over the 90% mark. Not even a remote chance of a labour related work stoppage lasting more than a shift or two..if at all .

    Arthur D is correct. The auto pact was a fair and workable plan . Agreed HDC, it was a different time and a different era. A similar agrrement could work again . I’m sure that something beneficial to both sides could be worked out. However, given the political situation ( on both sides of the border) ..I can’t see that happening .

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      mikey, I’m glad you are back. I posted on another thread dealing with unionized assembly workers, “Where’s Mikey when we need him?”

      Your personal insight and practical experiences will stifle many of the uninformed.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Mikey is correct. Originally NAFTA was meant to ‘cement’ the special relationship between Reagan and Mulroney who became close friends. They wanted to ensure that Canada and the USA were linked in the same way.

      Unfortunately not long after that, after hard lobbying by large corporations and investment firms, NAFTA was opened up to Mexico. I remember watching clients in the auto parts manufacturing industry moving down to Mexico shortly after. Then other ‘conservative’ governments in both nations opened the doors to ‘free trade’ with other nations including dictatorships, etc.

      Can that be reversed? Well we know that technology has replaced labour in many manufacturing roles. But I still believe that if implemented using a strategic, long term strategy, that yes we could once again create a mutually beneficial limited ‘free trade’ market among democratic nations. Thereby restoring our manufacturing capabilities and ‘good’ blue collar jobs.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @mikey – Agreed. A strike vote rarely ever means a strike. You can then take job “actions” like only performing your contractual obligations or banning overtime work by members.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Holding a strike vote is like lacing up your shoes before you go out. Without it, the union negotiating team has zero leverage with management, and cannot even demonstrate that it is supported by its members.

    Without winning a strike vote, any strike/work stoppage/etc is illegal in Ontario.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Labor will become less of an issue and cost factor as more and more functions of labor are automated. Robots can work around the clock and don’t take vacations or sick days just downtime for maintenance and repair. As for coal it is noncompetitive as an energy source with more abundant and less expensive natural gas. Unless the US Constitution is changed Trump will definitely be out of office in 2025 but then again there might be enough Republicans Representatives to make Trump President for life followed by Don Jr. I doubt that will happen. Auto manufacturing will change and become more automated despite who is in power.

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