CAW Plans Provincewide Auto Industry Town Halls

Posted: 04/10/2012 10:30 am Updated: 04/10/2012 5:24 pm


The Canadian Auto Workers union heads into contract negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers this summer.


Leading up to those contract talks, the union will hold community meetings across Ontario, including Windsor, to highlight the importance of jobs in the auto sector.


Union president Ken Lewenza said Canada's auto industry has survived years of turmoil. He also said auto manufacturing jobs face increasing threats, such as globalization and corporations he said are more aggressive than ever.


Lewenza said the CAW scheduled the community meetings in cities that rely heavily on the auto industry in order to talk about the threats, the importance of auto jobs and the CAW's proposals to strengthen the industry.


One proposal by the CAW calls on the federal government to establish an auto industry policy.


Windsor would be a 'ghost town' without Chrysler


Rick Laporte is president of CAW local 444, which represents approximately 5,000 workers at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant where the company's minivans are built.


He said if the plant ever closed, the city would look like a "ghost town."


Laporte said it's important to educate the public on how important auto jobs are to a community.


"You know, just Chrysler alone donates $1 million to United Way out of a $5 million budget. So it obviously would affect this community hugely if the automotive industry wasn't in our community," Laporte said. "So it's a very important meeting everyone is welcome to attend."


The community meeting on auto jobs will be held April 17 in Windsor.


Other cities to host the public forums include London, where Caterpillar closed its Electro-Motive diesel engine plant, and Oshawa, the new auto capital of Canada.


The CAW said despite downsizing, the auto industry, which is mainly concentrated in Ontario, makes a crucial contribution to Canada's productivity, exports and incomes.


FLASHPOINTS IN THE HISTORY OF CANADIAN LABOUR
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  • Labour Day: A Canadian Invention

    Few Canadians realize it, but Labour Day is as Canadian as maple bacon. It all began in 1872, when the Toronto Typographical Union went on strike to demand a nine-hour workday. When <i>Globe and Mail</i> chief George Brown had the protest organizers arrested, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald passed a law legalizing labour unions. Thus, a Conservative prime minister became a hero to the working class, and Canada became among the first countries to limit the workday, doing so decades before the U.S. The typographers' marches became an annual event, eventually being adopted by the U.S., becoming the modern day Labour Day.

  • The Winnipeg General Strike

    The end of World War I brought social instability and economic volatility to Canada. On May 15, 1919, numerous umbrella union groups went out on strike in Winnipeg, grinding the city to a halt. Protesters were attacked in the media with epithets such as "Bolshevik" and "Bohunk," but resistance from the media and government only strengthened the movement. In June, the mayor ordered the Mounties to ride into the protest, prompting violent clashes and the death of two protesters. After protest leaders were arrested, organizers called off the strike. But the federal mediator ended up ruling in favour of the protesters, establishing the Winnipeg General Strike as the most important strike in Canadian history, and a precursor to the country's modern labour movement.

  • The Regina Riot

    During the Great Depression, the only way for a single male Canadian to get government assistance was to join "relief camps" -- make-work projects set up by the federal government out of concern idle young men were a threat to the nation. The relief camps, with their poor work conditions, became breeding grounds for communists and other radicals. The "On-To-Ottawa Trek" was organized as a protest that would move from Vancouver across the country to Ottawa, to bring workers' grievances to the prime minister. The trek halted in Regina when Prime Minister R.B. Bennett promised to talk to protest organizers. When talks broke down, the RCMP refused to allow the protesters to leave Regina and head for Ottawa, and on June 26, 1935, RCMP riot officers attacked a crowd of protesters. More than 100 people were arrested and two killed -- one protester and one officer.

  • Bloody Sunday

    In May, 1938, unemployed men led by communist organizers occupied a post office and art gallery in downtown Vancouver, protesting over poor work conditions at government-run Depression-era "relief camps." In June, the RCMP moved in to clear out the occupiers, using tear gas inside the post office. The protesters inside smashed windows for air and armed themselves with whatever was available. Forty-two people, including five officers, were injured. When word spread of the evacuation, sympathizers marched through the city's East End, smashing store windows. Further protests against "police terror" would be held in the weeks to come.

  • Giant Mine Bombing

    In 1992, workers at Royal Oak Mines' Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories went on strike. On September 18, a bomb exploded in a mineshaft deep underground, killing nine replacement workers. Mine worker Roger Warren was convicted of nine counts of second-degree murder. The Giant Mine closed in 2004.

  • The Toronto G20

    The Canadian Labour Congress, representing numerous labour groups, participated in protests in Toronto during the G20 summit in June, 2010. When a handful of "Black Block" anarchists rioted through the city core, it brought an overwhelming police response that resulted in the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. More than 1,000 people were arrested, with most never charged with any crime. Numerous allegations of police brutality have been made, and the Toronto police are now the target of several multi-million dollar lawsuits. So far, two police officers have been charged with crimes relating to G20 policing, and charges against other police officers are also possible.

  • Occupy Canada

    When Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters suggested the public "occupy Wall Street" to protest corporate malfeasance, New Yorkers took the suggestion seriously, and occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Canadians followed suit, sparking copycat occupations in all major Canadian cities in September, 2011. By December, most of the occupations had been cleared, all of them non-violently. Though the protests achieved no specific goals, they did change the political conversation in North America. What their long-term legacy will be remains to be seen.

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Filed by Daniel Tencer  |