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CAW – ‘We’re occupying to save our jobs’

CAW – ‘We’re occupying to save our jobs’

OCTOBER 16 – A six-hour occupation of the Fabrication plant by 150 striking members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), has stopped GM from trying to move equipment across the picket lines.

After picket lines went up two weeks ago, management tried unsuccessfully to remove 75 dies from the Fabrication plant so it could keep using them to manufacture components.

When striking members of CAW Local 222 refused to lift their lines so the machines could be moved, GM sought an injunction against the union.

But after only a few hours of having the plant occupied, the company backed down and agreed to abandon both plans for an injunction and plans to move out machinery.

“We’re occupying the plant to try and save our jobs” said Mike Shields, president of CAW Local 222.

The occupation came one day after GM announced a significant profit increase. World-wide, profits almost doubled for the period from July to the end of September, going from $642-million (U.S.) to $1.27-billion.

GM does not release quarterly figures for profits from its Canadian operations, but last year, GM Canada earned $1.39-billion (Canadian), a Canadian corporate record. [1]

“The workers on the picket line in Oshawa saw those [profit] numbers and they want us to stick to our guns more than ever,” said Shields.

The main issue in the dispute is outsourcing. GM wants to cut its costs by laying off thousands of unionized employees currently making auto parts, and instead contract out to non-union parts suppliers.

“This is the result of greediness. We have made too much money for them and this is how they repay us – by trying to get rid of our jobs,” said Ron Hulett from Local 1973 in Windsor.

The occupation of the Fabrication plant builds on the best traditions of the union movement. The sit-down strike was one of the great tactics used by auto workers and all other industrial unions in the battles of the 1930s.

The other tactic was solidarity, not letting one group stand and fight alone. A step in building this solidarity was taken on Thanksgiving Weekend.

Over 100 workers from Detroit, including members of the United Auto Workers and striking Detroit Free Press workers, joined the picket lines in Windsor and brought food for the strikers’ Thanksgiving dinners.

“We came to bring a message today that U.S. workers should be down with the CAW to bring GM around and to solve it,” said Pat Meyers of UAW Concerned. “We thought it was a significant message to send to Canadian workers today. The message is total support.”

“This is the membership of UAW unions and the American labor force coming over and showing their support,” said Bert Desjardins, CAW Local 1973. [2]

These workers deserve the support of everyone in the labour movement. If they can stop GM’s outsourcing plans, it will be a blow to the union-busting plans of employers everywhere.

Fax letters of support to 1-905-436-9515.

© 1996 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.


[1] Tony Van Alphen and Donovan Vincent, “Strikers Steaming over GM Profits,” Toronto Star, October 16, 1996.

[2] Quoted in Heather Greenwood, “U.S. Unions Offer Boost to Pickets in Windsor,” Toronto Star, October 15, 1996.

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