04/10/2012 10:30 EDT | Updated 06/10/2012 05:12 EDT

CAW Plans Provincewide Auto Industry Town Halls


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.

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