The Auto Workers Against Wynne held a ground-breaking rally at Queen’s Park last Sunday. A group of non-union workers from the Toyota plant showed more initiative, more organizing smarts, and more willingness to take on the Liberal government than the leadership of Unifor. One of the leaders of the rally, Doug Penner, was interviewed on the Taylor Report (89.5 fm) Monday, April 23, 2018.
The governing Liberals did some backroom calculating and decided they could get away with excluding autoworkers from legislation providing 10 days emergency leave for Ontario workers. Premier Wynne found out fast that autoworkers at Toyota are wide awake and they do not sit back. They rallied at Queen’s Park and NDP leaders were quick to bring support. Unifor President Jerry Dias, a Liberal Party friend, was absent.
Unifor claims to be the “largest private sector union” in Canada. It would be more accurate to describe them as the largest union-raiding organization in Canada. Unifor now spends more time and money raiding other unions than they do organizing un-organized workers. Almost 60% of “new” members in the first 3 months of 2018 came from raiding.
The proof is in the April 4 issue of Unifor’s online publication, Unilink. Unifor brags that they have signed up 1,605 new members, but 919 of those “new” members were actually hotel workers who had belonged to UNITE HERE 75 in Toronto. Unifor targeted 24 hotels represented by UNITE HERE and were only able to win votes at 5 of them. Those 5 units have an average size of 184 workers. That is an abject failure. Jerry’s incompetence at raiding is the only consolation here.
But an even bigger failure is the record of Unifor at organizing the unorganized. In the same three months, across Canada only 686 workers from 10 locations joined Unifor. The average unit size is under 70 workers. All but one of those certifications were in Ontario and Quebec. Unifor’s record in the other 8 provinces and 3 territories – one unit of 85 workers.
How is it possible that Unifor, with 18 full-time reps in the Organizing Department (all on 6-figure salaries), and an annual organizing budget of $10 million, can produce such dismal results? Is anyone in the corner offices at Unifor headquarters asking themselves why workers don’t want to join them? In all of 2017 they organized 3,279 workers. The 686 for the first quarter of 2018 is an even lower annual rate of 2,744. Could this be the reason Jerry Dias is willing to divide and undermine the house of labour in Canada in order to raid unions that are part of the Canadian Labour Congress?
Workers Reject Two-Tier Concessionary Agreements
It’s no surprise that non-union workers at Toyota and Honda are not impressed when Jerry Dias “bargains” two-tier contracts with GM, Ford and FiatChrysler that have newer workers earning $15 per hour less than people beside them doing the same jobs. They don’t get equal pay for 11 years! Their pensions and benefits are inferior. Unifor “bargained” a 6-year grow-in starting at 70% of wages in 2009. In 2012 this was made worse – an 11-year grow-in starting at 60%. Despite the companies making record profits, Unifor failed to shorten the grow-in in 2016. Of course, this outrageous exploitation of newer workers has now spread into all sectors where Unifor bargains. Why would workers be inspired to sign on to a union whose bargaining is stuck in reverse?
Dias’ Friends Are Liberal Politicians, Not Workers
The Unifor leadership is more interested in rubbing shoulders with corporate executives and Liberal politicians than hanging out with workers or fighting for their interests (see photo). This is class collaboration, and it is never going to appeal to workers who need a union that will put workers’ interests first. The most recent example – The Ontario Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne short-changed workers in the auto sector in the new employment standards legislation. Autoworkers get only 7 Paid Emergency Leave (PEL) days, while other workers get 10 PEL days. Worse – other workers get paid for the first 2 PEL days and autoworkers are paid for none. Yet, Jerry Dias is not willing to fight to get this changed. In fact, Jerry was part of the advisory panel that agreed to exempt the auto sector – because the corporate execs asked the government to give them special treatment. Now autoworkers are so angry they are circulating petitions and preparing for a rally at Queen’s Park on April 22. These efforts are being led by non union autoworkers from the Toyota and Honda plants. Instead of supporting this amazing effort – Jerry Dias is avoiding them like the plague. He won’t answer their phone calls or emails. He won’t mobilize Unifor members to attend the rally. The Ontario NDP is in full support, but not Jerry – he is sticking by his Liberal Party patrons. Instead of supporting the rally, he arranged his own meeting with Liberal ministers, and then bragged that he had gotten “a commitment by the Ontario government to launch a review panel to examine the
exemption”. Not a very impressive accomplishment – but that is what happens when you are not willing to fight. Of course, Jerry’s Facebook post where he made this hollow boast, attracted a slew of sarcastic, angry comments from real autoworkers. We have posted a screen shot of some of them, in case Jerry’s social media handlers ever get around to deleting them.
Support Autoworkers Against Wynne Rally at Queen’s Park April 22
Unlike Jerry, we hope thousands of autoworkers, both union and non-union, show up at Queen’s Park on Sunday, April 22 at 10 am to demand fair treatment for all workers under the Employment Standards Act.
Unifor Local 222 strongly endorsed the NDP in the upcoming Ontario election, at their general membership meeting April 5. Local 222 represents GM workers in Oshawa and 30 other bargaining units in Durham region. This action is a dramatic rejection of the “strategic voting” policy of Jerry Dias, National President of Unifor.
The motion that was presented and passed noted that the key planks of Andrea Horwath’s campaign platform were in the best interests of the members of Local 222 and their community. It mandated a detailed strategy to engage and mobilize the Local’s rank-and-file members. The motion called on Local 222 to:
Mail a message to to every member of Local 222 highlighting the benefits of the NDP’s platform
Invite local NDP candidates to address the Local’s membership meetings in May and June
Print articles in the Local’s monthly publication, the Oshaworker
Encourage members to participate in canvassing in the community
Local 222 members know that they have received strong backing from Oshawa MPP Jennifer French, especially during the 2016 auto bargaining. Meanwhile, autoworkers, like all workers across the province, have suffered from the policies of successive Liberal and Conservative governments. The Kathleen Wynne Liberals have privatized Hydro One – going even further than the Mike Harris Conservative government. Privatization has led to soaring hydro rates for workers, while the CEO of Hydro One gets a massive pay increase of $1.7 million dollars, to hit $6.2 million – a 37.8% increase in one year. The recent Liberal budget includes a backdoor scheme for the privatization of such key public assets as the TTC (ATU Local 113 has helped expose and publicize this reactionary plan. Notably, the Doug Ford Conservatives have the same policy on this issue as the Liberals.)
Autoworkers Discriminated Against by Liberal Regulation
The Liberals even had the arrogance to exclude autoworkers from the recent changes to labour standards in Ontario, knowing that their pal Jerry would go along. All other workers are now guaranteed 10 personal emergency leave days (PEL days), of which the first 2 must be paid. But autoworkers are limited to only 7 PEL days per year, and get no paid days at all, because of a Liberal regulation. As usual, the Liberals are doing favours for their friends, the wealthy owners of the immensely profitable auto companies. Shamefully, Dias was a member of the “special advisory panel” along with the corporate executives, that agreed the poor auto companies needed this concession. This is on top of Jerry bargaining two-tier contracts that have new workers doing the same job for $15 per hour less than other workers. New workers take 11 years to get to equal wages, have inferior pensions, and have almost no post-retirement health care benefits.
Make it Count – for the NDP!
The Liberals and the Conservatives are both Bay Street parties – they are bought and paid for by corporate owners and financiers. They have fundamentally the same policies. The biggest threat in promoting “strategic voting” is that it is designed to confuse and mislead workers about the policy of the Liberal party. The strategic voting hucksters want to convince us that we should vote for the Liberals “to stop the Conservatives”. But what workers really need, is to fight for our own political demands and interests. We will never be served by electing parties that represent our adversaries, the corporate elite. Unifor’s official policy for the Ontario election is “Make it Count“, and they have mailed every Unifor member in Ontario a flyer that studiously avoids identifying which party would best represent us as workers. You have to wonder which side Jerry Dias is on. Actually, you don’t have to wonder – he makes it clear time and again that he is on the side of the Liberal Party, not on the side of the workers.
Most recently Jerry was quoted by the National Post praising the Liberal’s budget. They threw him a bone – as a reward for undermining the Canadian Labour Congress – a rule change that he can pretend supports his jingoistic attacks on international unions. As Sid Ryan said, “Bob White would turn in his grave to see The Financial (Com)Post, Toronto Sun, Unifor leadership and the Liberals, all on the same page”.
Support Working Class Politics
Local 222 is showing the way to dump “strategic voting” in the garbage bin where it belongs. We have to get rid of union leaders who believe in class collaboration, instead of fighting for workers. More Unifor locals need to take matters into their own hands, and stop blindly following the lead of Jerry Dias and his cronies.