UNIFOR TAKES FIGHT TO STREETS
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.”
“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.