UNI­FOR TAKES FIGHT TO STREETS

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - SHARON HILL [email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/win­starhill

Rally aims to stop GM plant clo­sure

Ex­pect more protests pres­sur­ing Gen­eral Mo­tors to re­verse its Oshawa plant clo­sure de­ci­sion at next week’s North Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Auto Show in De­troit — in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble call for a boy­cott. “We say to Gen­eral Mo­tors, ‘You haven’t seen any­thing yet,’ ” Uni­for na­tional pres­i­dent Jerry Dias told a protest rally along Wind­sor’s water­front on Fri­day.

“Sell here! Build here!” chanted a large crowd of a few thou­sand peo­ple gath­ered across the river from GM head­quar­ters in De­troit. “The mes­sage has to be, ‘If you want to sell here you bet­ter build here,’ ” a fired-up Dias said.

Dias de­manded Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and On­tario Premier Doug Ford setup a meet­ing with GM CEO Mary Barra and tell GM how dis­gusted they are with the de­ci­sion to close the Oshawa Assem­bly Plant later this year. Be­cause GM re­ceived al­most $11 bil­lion in bailout money from Canada, Uni­for has been call­ing on the gov­ern­ments for help to re­verse the de­ci­sion and has started an on­line pe­ti­tion.

Dias told the crowd, which in­cluded many work­ers bused in from Oshawa and other cities across the province, that if GM doesn’t lis­ten to the union or the politi­cians, it will hope­fully lis­ten to Wall Street, “when we start to take di­rect ac­tion in Canada to get your ab­so­lute at­ten­tion.” He said there’s go­ing to be “a lot of noise next week” at the auto show and an ag­gres­sive cam­paign, but he didn’t give de­tails.

Af­ter the rally, Dias said Uni­for is not call­ing for a boy­cott of GM ve­hi­cles cur­rently and is giv­ing GM a chance to change its de­ci­sion. “We are ab­so­lutely go­ing to be talk­ing about boy­cotting GM ve­hi­cles made in Mex­ico,” he said. GM sales had dropped 30 per cent in De­cem­ber from a year ago, he said. Dias called GM “greedy” and pre­dicted there will be “a heck of a de­bate” in Canada and the U.S. — where four GM plants are be­ing closed — un­til the com­pany gets a social con­science. To re­porters he said he doesn’t think any GM plant in Canada (Inger­soll and St. Catharines) is safe.

Mike Long­moore, a 76-year-old Chrysler re­tiree from Wind­sor, said un­til GM be­comes more rea­son­able, it may not sell as many ve­hi­cles here. “GM has be­trayed us.” Si­mone Slad­kowski, who came from Mis­sis­sauga to sup­port a friend whose GM job is tar­geted for elim­i­na­tion, left the rally in near tears and vowed to never buy a GM ve­hi­cle again. “It’s to­tal cor­po­rate greed.” Slad­kowski said the loss of such good jobs will be dev­as­tat­ing. “My heart just bleeds for these peo­ple.” Her friend Car­olyn Whit­mee, 63, worked 13 years at GM but cur­rently has just two years se­nior­ity. She has a child with dis­abil­i­ties and can’t af­ford to re­tire. She was one of an es­ti­mated 2,000 Oshawa area work­ers who came to the rally, ac­cord­ing to Uni­for. Whit­mee helped build GM trucks be­fore that plant closed. She be­came a per­sonal sup­port worker and then was hired back by GM on con­tract and took two pay cuts, she said.

It’s shock­ing that Trudeau and Ford have said very lit­tle in sup­port of work­ers, Whit­mee said. Her friends car­ried a sign that read “Justin Where R U?”

A hand­ful of lo­cal NDP politi­cians also at­tended the rally. Wind­sor West MP Brian Masse, the fed­eral NDP’s in­dus­try and auto critic, called on Trudeau to stand up for GM work­ers by meet­ing with Barra and im­ple­ment­ing a na­tional auto strategy.

It’s not too late, Dias told a crush of re­porters.

“Gen­eral Mo­tors is not clos­ing our plant,” Dias said. “This is too im­por­tant, not just to the com­mu­nity of Oshawa, the province of On­tario, but to Cana­di­ans, and we are fight­ing to the bit­ter end be­cause Gen­eral Mo­tors is go­ing to have to change their de­ci­sion.”

PHO­TOS: NICK BRANCACCIO

“You haven’t seen any­thing yet,” Jerry Dias said at a rally in Dieppe Park against GM’s plan to close its Oshawa plant.

Uni­for vol­un­teer Al­li­son Ko­zolanka sizes up a T-shirt for Carl Dill­man at Dieppe Park. The union is promis­ing an all-out cam­paign that will reach into Wall Street against the planned clo­sure of the GM plant in Oshawa.

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