Cory Weir talks to The Taylor Report, CIUT-FM, about Unifor’s disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress, which has divided and weakened the workers’ movement in Canada.
“This exit from the CLC is absolutely destructive for the Canadian labour movement. We’re at a watershed moment where we have massive public outrage against bad bosses and employers who are pushing back against the minimum wage increase … We’re at this great moment to be out organizing workers, to be building our movement, building capacity of some of the most marginalized workers in the country – instead we’re in this massive public battle”
On January 17th, 2018 Jerry Dias, National President of Unifor, announced that he was disaffiliating our union from the 3.5 million member Canadian Labour Congress “effective immediately”. This division of Canada’s labour movement will be a huge blow to the struggles of workers across the country. The decision was ratified by Jerry’s hand-picked Unifor National Executive Board, who have never been known to stand up to him on any issue. But why weren’t we consulted as Unifor members? Why didn’t Unifor members get to vote? Supposedly this destructive move was taken in the name of “union democracy” – what a joke! The dues-paying members of Unifor never even knew disaffiliation was being discussed or voted on.
Unifor Exits In Order to Raid
What has motivated this undemocratic action? As many people have pointed out, part of the reason is Jerry’s desire to continue raiding other unions, instead of organizing unorganized workers. His efforts to engineer a takeover of the TTC workers of ATU Local 113 blew up in his face, even though Hassan Yussuff, CLC President, bent over backwards to try to help him. Yussuff unilaterally suspended part of the CLC Constitution to allow the raid, but was eventually forced by other CLC affiliates to reverse his position. (It has been pointed out by some, that Jerry Dias spent some $1 million of Unifor’s funds to get Hassan Yussuff elected as CLC President.) Jerry struck a deal with Bob Kinnear, ATU Local 113 President, to bring his members into Unifor, which one of Kinnear’s supporters referred to as “the big white shark”. At that time, Jerry also promised there would be support from Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne. But none of that translated into support from TTC workers, so the attempted raid fizzled out. Now the “big white shark” has another victim in its sights – the 8,000 Toronto hotel workers who are members of UNITE HERE Local 75. Knowing that he is unlikely to get the CLC to acquiesce to more raiding, Dias has decided to pre-emptively leave the CLC so that he can raid with impunity. The day after the disaffiliation Unifor was already trying to get hotel workers to sign Unifor cards.
Liberal Politics is the “Bigger Picture”
However, raiding is not the only motivation here. To fully understand what is going on, we have to pull aside the curtain and see who is really operating the levers. Jerry Dias, as President of Unifor, and his predecessor Buzz
Hargrove, President of the CAW, have been instrumental over the last few years in helping the Liberal Party capture a large chunk of the Canadian labour movement. They call their policy “strategic voting” but it is clearly designed to benefit the Liberals. In recent elections unions have contributed more money to the Liberal Party than to their traditional political partner, the NDP. In the 2011 Ontario provincial election, unions contributed a total of $1,019,876 to the Liberal Party, and a strategic voting front group, the Working Families Coalition, also primarily funded by unions, spent an additional $2.1 million on advertising against the Conservatives. Union contributions to the NDP were $836,956.
Part of cementing this Liberal ideological takeover of the labour movement has been installing Hassan Yussuff, a Unifor staffer, whose partner is an assistant to Jerry Dias, as President of the CLC; and displacing Sid Ryan with Chris Buckley, another Unifor staffer, as President of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
The disastrous results of this growing hegemony of Liberalism in the major bodies of the labour movement, is that there is no effective opposition to the anti-worker policies of the Trudeau and Wynne governments. Trudeau’s government embraces capitalist trade deals (CETA, TPP, NAFTA), he endorses climate-killing pipelines, he introduces bill C-27 to undermine defined benefit pensions – and the CLC is mute. Meanwhile Kathleen Wynne’s government legislates teachers back to work, privatizes Hydro and installs the leading privatization advocate, Ed Clark, as head of the LCBO – and the OFL provides no meaningful opposition leadership or mobilization. All because Unifor is determined to get Wynne and Trudeau re-elected. However, there is growing opposition in the labour movement to this policy of being in bed with Liberal governments.
Dias Infuriated by OFL Endorsement of NDP
The decision by Jerry Dias to ‘take his ball and go home’ and pull Unifor out of the CLC comes only 2 months after his embarrassing defeat at last fall’s OFL convention. Despite desperate maneuvering by Unifor operatives, the Convention adopted a policy to support the NDP in the 2018 Ontario election. Dias was furious, and threatened at the time that he would pull funding from the OFL. It seems clear that Dias wants to bully the CLC and Provincial Federations of Labour into supporting the Liberal Party – or else he will work to divide and undermine those bodies.
In his statement on the disaffiliation, Dias claimed:
“Unifor stands in support of union democracy and the rights of workers. Our union is opposed to any union that threatens, harasses, intimidates, or silences workers for simply asserting their democratic rights to choose a union or for the purpose of quelling dissent within the local.”
Was Jerry Dias defending democracy when he booted 5 BC Unifor locals out of the union without a hearing – a blatant violation of the Unifor constitution?
Is Dias defending the right of workers to choose a union when he uses legal maneuvering for over a year to prevent fish harvesters from voting on which union they want to belong to? This is from The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) Facebook page:
Good morning NL and all ships at sea. Let’s see if I have this straight: Unifor Canada has broken away from the Canadian Labour Congress over a disagreement about the rights of workers to choose what union should represent them, even as FFAW/Unifor blocks inshore harvesters in NL from choosing their union fate. GerrydiazLana Payne et al are full of sh-t.
Jerry Dias has allied himself with the Bay Street Liberal Party and turned himself into a shill for their policies. There is no better example of this than Jerry’s grandstanding as the supposed ‘voice of labour’ at the NAFTA negotiations. He is serving as the lap dog of Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland (who continues to praise her Nazi-collaborator grandfather) and has made clear that he wants the Canadian and US governments to work together against the “real enemy” – Mexico. Instead of trying to build ties between US, Canadian and Mexican workers – which would be real solidarity, Dias disparages unions in Mexico. He calls them “protection” unions and claims they are in bed with companies and government. Instead of trying to work with the unions that actually represent auto workers in Mexico, Dias has made ties with a few dissident organizations. But if being in bed with corporations and their political parties is wrong – Dias and the UAW are as guilty as any union in Mexico. Here’s the kicker – in the joint UAW and Unifor NAFTA position paper from last summer, the source for information about Mexico – is the U.S. State Department!
Unifor members and locals should demand the immediate reversal of Jerry Dias’ undemocratic decision to pull out of the CLC. This action hurts the labour movement of Canada, which means it hurts all Canadian workers including Unifor members. This is happening at exactly the moment when there were strong grass-roots efforts to fight bad-boss Tim Hortons franchisees. Instead of raiding and division, we need all unions to work together to unionize low-wage workers.
The autocratic, egotistical actions by Jerry Dias are dangerous and destructive. It’s time Jerry – time for you to go. If Jerry does not do the honourable thing and resign, we need to do the honourable thing and impeach him.
Unifor National Executive Board unanimously (unconstitutionally?) voted to leave the CLC . This has caused a rift in the House of Labour and has rightfully gotten the activists of Unifor riled up, many of whom once belonged to a Regional Labour Council or Provincial Federation of Labour before this decision was made. As members of the Unifor Solidarity Network, we feel it’s important that you make your opinion heard directly to the NEB. We would also like to post your letters here as well, because we feel that this issue merits a full discussion with our members.
We call on all Unifor activists to stand against this undemocratic power move by our NEB, and to continue our important work at the grassroots while our leaders waste valuable time and energy at the top.
My name is Mike Mutimer. I’m a member of Local 222 and as of yesterday, I was a delegate and Executive Member at Large for the Durham Region Labour Council.
I write to express my displeasure with the National Executive Board’s unanimous decision to immediately disaffiliate from the Canadian Labour Congress.
While I can understand the NEB’s frustration with the CLC and the lack of action in regards to the bullying tactics of US based unions, are we not engaging in our own bullying tactic by withholding our per captia as Canada’s largest private sector union? In your “Facts on Unifor’s disaffiliation from the CLC” article, you don’t clearly say that WE (as Unifor) are acting like bullies, however when you say things like “It is our hope that the action to disaffiliate from the CLC will trigger change to ensure that workers in Canada have their democratic rights respected”, one can clearly read between the lines.
You’re hoping by starving the CLC of our per capita, they will “trigger change”. If that’s not a bully tactic, I’m not sure what is. This effectively removes two million dollars from their budget.
Further more, it would appear NEB also acted in violation of our own Unifor Constitution which states in Article 19: Affiliations, Section 2 : Suspension or disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress may be authorized by the National Executive Board subject to the approval of Convention, or the Canadian Council.
Reading through the resolutions of 2017’s Canadian Council, I don’t see any type of approval given to the NEB to act in this manner. This should have been approved by Canadian Council last year prior to this decision and not to be dealt with later this year.
I respectfully disagree that the NEB didn’t enter into this lightly. There has been conflicting messages in regards to affiliation to regional labour councils. If this was a well thought out decision, there would have been more discussion and especially with out members. This wouldn’t have been done during the middle of giant National Day of Action that has been put together by labour councils. The timing couldn’t be worse.
To conclude, I’m deeply disappointed by this action. It seems to be exactly the same type of bullying tactic that has been used in the past when unions didn’t get their way in the OFL and now Unifor is doing it to the CLC. There are better ways to resolve this issue than to remove the largest private sector union in the country from the House of Labour. It appears the NEB acted in violation of the Unifor Constitution Article 19 Section 2 that says suspension or disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress can be authorized by the the NEB SUBJECT TO APPROVAL of Convention or Canadian Council, which was not gained during the last 2017 Canadian Council.
I really hope this decision is reversed as soon as possible.
Unifor Local 222
Sisters and Brothers,
I’m writing to express my extreme displeasure with your recent unanimous decision to end our affiliation with the Canadian Labour Congress. The impact of this decision will have untold consequences for labour councils across the country and has absolutely embarrassed us in front of the broader labour community.
If we are truly concerned about democracy, why was this decision carried out behind close doors on an executive level without any mandate from our membership? Why would our National President release a statement urging our continued participation in regional labour councils when Section 7 of the CLC constitution very expressly prohibits our continued participation?
I am very aware of the situation with Unite Here Local 75 and the gross abuse of power and process they face at the hand of the UH International. I fully respect and support their right to self-determination as I have and will always place local union autonomy above all other union authority, however if it is self-determination we are truly seeking for these workers, would it not have sufficed to provide assistance for their highly capable, experienced, and engaged membership in the pursuit of their own independent direction instead of raiding their members and making Unifor the mockery of the Canadian labour movement?
We are in a watershed moment as labour fights to defend the gains made under Bill 148, and we desperately need to organize service sector workers. Instead though, we will wind up wasting enormous sums of our dues both engaging in and defending against raids without protection under Article 4 of the CLC. Hundreds of our most dedicated labour activists have now been plucked from both leadership and rank & file roles within the regional councils, effectively tearing apart both their funding and capacity in some instances. These councils are the lifeblood of the labour movement and your decisions have done immense harm to not only the councils but to the public image of unions in general which are routinely painted as greedy and only interested in securing dues. Consequently, it will take years to mend the mistrust that has now been sewn between Unifor and the rest of the unified labour movement.
This power move has come at such a grossly inopportune time, and has been carried out in such a callous and unthinking way that I question both the vision and intention of the primary motivators of this decision. With all of this said, I hope for the speedy and tactful rectification of this completely avoidable situation, and have faith in the ability of those on the NEB who recognize the true depth of this transgression against a united Canadian labour movement.
Solinet’s Cory Weir was recently a featured guest on the respected radio show The Taylor Report, on CIUT-FM.
Something important and perhaps unexpected came out of the recent Ontario Federation of Labour Convention: A politically neutral motion to turn out “One Million Votes” at the next provincial election was improved into a motion that would back Ontario’s social democratic party, the NDP. Weir provides the details.
Also of note, Weir speaks about growing support in the labour movement for Palestinian rights.
This is an open call for delegates to our Unifor Ontario Council to take a firm stand for workers’ rights and for our union principles. Over the course of this Council meeting our political direction will be debated, and our strategy for the coming provincial election will be laid out. You will hear passionate pleas about how we must stop Patrick Brown and his disgusting anti-worker party from dragging our great movement backwards, and this is absolutely true.
We also must not lose sight of the fact that the provincial Liberals are just as ruthlessly anti-union as the Conservatives, and that we have only made gains under their majority government through massive grassroots and labour organizing. In Ontario, we have two anti-union parties; one is blue and the other is red. From the selloff of our cherished public assets like Hydro One, to the violation of our Constitution in legislating our sisters and brothers in OPSEU back to work a mere week ago, it’s abundantly clear that the Ontario Liberals are no friend of Labour, and will never be aligned with the principles and goals of Unifor.
It is for these reasons and many more that we flatly reject the failed strategy of “Anyone But Conservative” strategic voting, and urge you to do the same. We have many dedicated union activists from our ranks who are running for the NDP- union activists who have never betrayed our principles, and have fought tooth and nail for our rights for decades. Some of them have succeeded in winning seats, but others have been stripped of their chance to fight for us in the halls of power by the short-sighted practice of strategic voting.
Endorsing anti-worker Liberals is an absolute affront to everything we stand for as a union, and we must put an end to this in the 2018 provincial election by putting our full support behind the only mainstream party who has ever given a damn about our rights, and that’s the NDP. We must resist the politics of fear currently being used to lead us astray, and stand up for what we believe in – a workers’ agenda that represents us and not the Bay Street bankers of the Liberal Party. Strategic voting is a failed strategy that puts cronies and crooks in power; let’s learn from our mistakes and stick to fighting for what Unifor believes in.
A bit more – it is important to consider that at our Political Action Conference this year, organizer Pam Frache from the Workers Action Centre, Ontario discussed the “Fight for 15 & Fairness” campaign, and how it has brought monumental change to Ontario communities. The Conference also touched on the important work our members did in British Columbia to elect John Horgan. Brother Gavin McGarrigle & Sister Patty Barrera talked about building capacity and leadership, and the combined power of strong inside and outside strategies. This is exactly what is required to defeat the Conservatives in Ontario.
We can make more progress by backing the party that is closest to our principles, that backs our issues. We should support a campaign to put more workers into Ontario’s Legislative assembly. Strategic voting confuses our members and voters, and misleads them about the true class interests of the Liberals.
We can’t trust Kathleen Wynne and Ontario’s Liberals after their record over the last four years.
The CAW/Unifor leadership’s definition of “democracy” seems to be “listen, applaud, vote yes”. Most conventions and council meetings have seen very little debate over issues, or discussion about the best way forward. It is rare for local unions to submit resolutions, especially critical ones. The last auto contracts were the most unpopular ever – featuring drastically lower wages for newly-hired tier 2 workers, with a punishing 10+ year wait for equal pay, and inferior benefits and pensions. Yet there has been little open challenge of this direction at Unifor gatherings.
Unifor Local 222, representing GM of Canada workers in Oshawa, and 28 other bargaining units (including CEVA, Logistics in Motion, Durham Region Transit, Lear Seating, Armada Tools) has submitted 4 resolutions, all passed at the membership meeting November 2. A couple of these resolutions are a direct challenge to the Unifor leadership.
No support for anti-worker Liberals
One resolution calls on Unifor to support the NDP in the 2018 provincial elections. The resolution cites several instances of the Ontario Liberal government’s anti-worker actions, including moving to privatize Ontario Hydro, failing to deliver on funding for health care and hospitals, and a so-called “modernization” plan for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation that puts thousands of pensions at risk (including the pensions of Unifor members) and is designed to gut union contracts in the gaming sector. The resolution was submitted before the Liberal government’s disgusting back-to-work legislation that attacked college teachers in the province.
Many Unifor members have grown increasingly disgusted by the cozy relationship between Jerry Dias and the Liberal governments of Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne. The pro-Liberal policies are usually disguised by an appeal to vote “ABC” (Anybody But Conservative). That pitch is getting more and more opposition, and the Local 222 resolution will be an opportunity for some REAL debate at the Ontario Council meeting about the need to support working-class politics and not the Bay Street Liberals.
Health Care Trust Corruption
The second important resolution calls on Jerry Dias to remove retired staffers as trustees of the Health Care Trust that provides health care benefits for retired GM and Fiat Chrysler workers. When the Trust was set up, half of the trustees were union staffers, and because they were employed by the union, they did not collect payments from the Trust funds. Over the years, all 5 union-appointed trustees retired but stayed on as trustees, and all began collecting very lucrative payments – over $27,000 a year as a retainer, and almost $800 per meeting (even if they ‘attended’ the meeting by phone for an hour). They have been collecting these payments even though they get very generous pensions from Unifor. These payments are being taken out of the funds that are supposed to be for retiree health care benefits, and are depleting the funds of our retirees, some of whom get less in pensions than these trustees are getting in fees.
GM retirees have even seen their health care benefits cut by 20% and their co-pays increased by more than the inflation rate because there is not enough money in the fund. Local 222 wrote to Dias in December 2016, almost one year ago, asking him to take action on this. He ignored that request, and several others that were sent. A resolution was sent to the August Unifor Convention, and the leadership arranged for it to be buried. Retiree delegates were told at their conference in September that the issue had been addressed – but it turned out that was not true. How much more pressure will it take before Dias is forced to pull the snouts of some of his cronies out of the trough?
Please urge the delegates from your local union to support these resolutions at the Ontario Council meeting.
This is a callout to local union leaders. There is a pattern of exclusion and barriers for new and young workers and it has everything to do with the maintenance of power, hierarchy and careerism within the labour movement.
We’re sick of being told that we’ll learn how things work “one day”. We’re sick of being told that we need to calm down. We’re sick of you telling us that we don’t care because we aren’t at meetings. We’re sick of having to suck up just to get involved because we need your approval. If you actually want to build your local union and the labour movement into something that capitalism will reckon with, it’s time to make space for young people to be part of the struggle, right now.
Until you recognize this, your local union and the labour movement will continue to suffer. There will be more wildcats, there will be more internal disputes, there will be more petitions to recall your ass from office, and there will be more plotting behind your back. The labour movement doesn’t need this but unfortunately, it’s a by-product of exclusion and when it goes unnoticed or when we are outright repressed, everyone loses. It is a different, more political kind of ‘race to the bottom’.
Spend more time encouraging the young workers in your local to get involved and then dedicate resources to the ones who step up to the plate.
So many young workers are serious and passionate about the political dynamics in their workplace and want to get involved. Most don’t. Most feel like it is an exclusive club or worse, a second boss. It is crucial that local leadership recognize those interested, just like in an organizing campaign and devote the time and resources to encourage young workers participation.
Here are some of the things that your local can do to make sure that young workers are getting involved to reach the maximum level of worker power within your local:
Negotiate a paid orientation period for all new hires. This is a time slot for the union to speak to new hires about the union and it should be a full day or a minimum of four hours. If you already have it, make sure that you get someone 35 or under to run it. This is a crucial time to talk about some of the misconceptions people have about unions they may have got at home or from right wing news.
Send young workers to conventions so they can network and build confidence to execute the ideas that they already have. Never let that extra young worker credential go to waste, ever.
Involve Young Workers in your negotiating committees to ensure that you have solid representation from those who will be most impacted by two or three-tier agreements.
For larger locals, appoint a young worker to a full-time organizer position to get out on the street and start building your local.
Make sure your bylaws include the support of a young workers committee and show some enthusiasm and support for those who want to join.
Local Union leadership has a huge responsibility to listen to what their members are saying but also what they are not saying. Make sure there is space for people to get involved and you might be surprised who enters it. Building young worker power means that the ‘Old Boys Club’ has to give some of their power and if they aren’t careful, we’ll take it anyway.
On Labour Day, Cory Weir was interviewed on respected progressive radio talk show The Taylor Report.
Phil Taylor talked to Cory about how class collaboration leads to corruption, how young workers challenged Justin Trudeau’s anti-worker policies by turning their backs on him, and how activists from Cory’s local union, Unifor Local 222 in Oshawa, sponsored a resolution calling for Palestinian self-determination and support for BDS, and had it adopted by Unifor’s Canadian Council.
Cory was also able to talk about how the Unifor Solidarity Network is establishing itself as a place for Unifor activists to exchange and discuss critical ideas and proposals for putting Unifor and the labour movement back on the offensive. The Taylor Report airs every Friday from 5 pm to 6 pm (Eastern time) on community radio, CIUT 89.5 fm.
The indictments involving a Fiat Chrysler exec and a UAW official should confirm long-held suspicions that “team concept” and cooperation between union and company leads to bad contracts, and sapping the fighting spirit of the members. US federal charges have been laid against Al Iacobelli, former VP of Fiat Chrysler, and Monica Morgan, wife of former UAW VP General Holiefield. (Holiefield himself was not indicted because he died in 2015.) Charges may be laid against further company and union officials.
Despite Fiat Chrysler and UAW claims, this is not the result of a few corrupt individuals – it is the inevitable consequence of decades of a culture of class collaboration.
The problem is union leaders who start to identify more with corporate executives than with the workers, and who see union office as a path to self-enrichment.
This also raises questions about the 2016 negotiations between GM and Unifor, representing Canadian GM workers – since Iacobelli was a leading member of the GM management team. (GM had hired Iacobelli after he ‘left’ Fiat Chrysler).
“Fat, dumb and happy”
Iacobelli and Holiefield conspired over at least 6 years to both enrich themselves, and also, to pay off other top UAW reps, in what was described as an effort to keep the union reps “fat, dumb and happy”. The brazen theft involved diverting funds from the negotiated National Training Center (NTC) to pay for such things as a Ferrari Spider ($350,000) and 2 solid-gold Mont Blanc pens ($37,500 each) for Iacobelli, and paying off the mortgage on the house owned by Morgan and Holiefield ($262,219). But the most important lesson to learn is that the source of the corruption was the culture of labour-management cooperation, or “team-concept” that has spread like a cancer through the North American labour movement.
Jointly-administered slush fund.
Fiat Chrysler contributed between $13 million and $31 million per year to the NTC, a joint company-union program that was supposed to provide education and training for union members. Corrupt practices were made easier because the fund was designed to serve as a slush fund, jointly administered by Iacobelli and Holiefield with no oversight. Funds were siphoned off directly to pay for air travel and lavish hotel suites including a four-night stay for Holiefield (at $3,100 per night) in the Beverly Hills Hotel in California. Credit cards were issued to senior UAW negotiators, as described in this Detroit Free Press account on July 27:
Starting in 2012, Iacobelli saw to it that Holiefield and other senior UAW officials obtained National Training Center credit cards. He directed Durden [a Fiat Chrysler Financial Analyst] to obtain the cards. The financial analyst obliged. And the union officials were encouraged to use them for personal expense. According to the indictment, Durden reported that he, Iacobelli and others at FCA “had created a liberal spending policy for the NTC-issued credit cards as part of their effort to keep the senior members of the UAW Chrysler Department ‘fat, dumb and happy.’ ” The cards were used liberally. The indictment alleges Holiefield made more than $200,000 in personal purchases on his credit card, including jewelry, furniture, designer clothing and other items. Iacobelli authorized the charges. Durden collected Holiefield’s credit card statements, instructing members of the NTC accounting staff “not to open, examine or review the NTC credit card statements.”
Phony children’s charity
Even more distasteful was the fact that Holiefield created a fake children’s charity, the “Leave the Lights on Foundation”. Iacobelli funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the NTC through the foundation to Holiefield and Monica Morgan. Companies owned by Morgan received money from the foundation and from the NTC, including getting the contract to provide T-shirts, mugs and other items to the NTC without submitting a quote or a bid. Most of that money went to Morgan and Holiefield’s lavish personal expenses. In the words of Fiat Chrysler’s financial analyst Durden, the payments were “an investment in relationship building” with Holiefield.
Two-tier wages and brutal 10-hour shifts
What did Fiat Chrysler get in return for this investment? As reported by David Barkholz in the Automotive News June 9, 2015:
FCA negotiated the best contract of the Detroit 3. FCA’s overall labor costs since the four-year UAW contract was signed in the fall 2011 have nudged up less than 1 percent per year. Consequently, FCA enjoys nearly a $10 an hour labor cost advantage over Ford and GM.
In addition, Fiat Chrysler gained the union’s support in implementing a brutal Alternative Work Schedule (AWS) of regular 10-hour days with no overtime pay. The AWS is also known as the 3-2-120 schedule because three crews work two shifts for 120 hours a week. For example, at the Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit, the “A” crew works 10 hours a day on day shift from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The “B” crew works 10 hours on night shift 6 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday through Saturday. The “C” crew works 10 hours on the night shift Monday and Tuesday and 10 hours on the day shift Friday and Saturday.
Both Fiat Chrysler and the UAW now claim that the corruption was just the acts of individuals. They both say they “didn’t know”. But Holiefield and the other UAW reps at Fiat Chrysler were not acting on their own in capitulating to management demands. The concessions they made were part of the overall strategy of concession bargaining followed by the UAW leadership for many years. In 2007 the UAW had agreed to allow the auto companies to hire second tier workers at half the regular rate with inferior benefits and no pensions. Even before that, the UAW leadership had argued that workers had common interests with the corporations, and that they had to help keep the companies “healthy” and profitable by implementing “team concept”. The UAW had agreed to joint programs and joint funds back in the early 1980’s. Since management still made the decisions, this so-called “team concept” just meant the union became tied in to enforcing those decisions. It was just a capitulation to the corporations, who always strive to maximize their profits, pay workers the least they can get away with, and speed up the work until it is destroying the health of the workers. What is desperately needed are union leaders that understand that “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common” – and that their role is to fight for the working class.
CAW/Unifor leaders also cozy up to corporate execs
Instead of fighters, we have union officials who would rather rub shoulders with corporate executives and their political lapdogs than associate with the workers. This has been the case with the autoworkers in Canada as well. Former Canadian Auto Workers President, Buzz Hargrove swooned when he got a pat on the head from Magna head Frank Stronach – and gave him the infamous no-strike agreement in return. This was a pattern with Buzz – he liked to chum around with corporate execs, like ONEX head Gerry Schwartz. After Buzz was taken on a tour of Israel at Schwartz’s expense, he turned into an apologist for the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. Later, Buzz delighted in putting a union jacket on then Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin.
In 2013 the CAW merged with the CEP and formed Unifor. The current Unifor president, Jerry Dias is following the same political path as Hargrove. He is smitten with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and supports the Ontario Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne.
Last year at a General Motors photo op announcement in Oshawa, attended by Trudeau and Wynne, Jerry refused to sit with members of the union local (Unifor Local 222) because he wanted to be as close as possible to the GM executives and Trudeau (see picture). A few months later, at the Oshawa ratification meeting for the new GM contract, Jerry was being questioned by a member of Unifor Local 222 who was calmly asking a reasonable question. His response was “You’re a f-ing idiot”.
Is Al Jerry’s Pal?
Most disturbingly – listen to Jerry’s response to the charges of fraud against Al Iacobelli:
“Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the union that negotiated with Iacobelli for Canadian autoworker contracts, said he always viewed him as a professional labor executive.
Could Jerry really have been totally unaware of the corrupt dealings between Iacobelli and UAW reps? He says he was “shocked” – Unifor members would like to know if he was also angry and working to prevent similar abuses here. There was widespread opposition to the 2016 contracts between Unifor and the auto companies. Many members were angry that new hires on the assembly line start at $15 per hour less than longer-term workers, and won’t get equal pay for more than 10 years. They also get an inferior pension. The ratification votes at all three companies were the lowest in the history of the Canadian union. Did Jerry’s demonstrated chumminess with corporate leaders and Liberal politicians influence what was negotiated? What was Iacobelli’s role in the GM negotiations? Despite the indictments, General Motors has so far refused to comment on Iacobelli’s employment status. When GM hired him in January 2016, they said he would be heading up the Canadian negotiations with Unifor. This week, sources told the Detroit News that Iacobelli had been suspended by GM after he was indicted, but it is unclear if he was suspended with pay.
UAW and Fiat Chrysler Cover-ups
After Iacobelli was indicted, Fiat Chrysler said they had fired him when they became aware of his fraud. But at the time Iacobelli left, they were happy to leave the impression that he had retired. Similarly, the UAW allowed Holiefield to serve out his term of office and retire with a pension in 2014, even though there had persistent complaints about Holiefield’s corruption for years. Even the indictment mentions that the then UAW President had cautioned Holiefield and Iacobelli over their financial dealings in 2011. Both the corporation and the union preferred to cover things up to preserve their public image.
Now that the indictments have come down, both the company and the union swear that the corruption had no influence on negotiations between the two. If you believe that, you must believe that Brian Mulroney had provided nothing in return for the three envelopes containing $300,000 in cash that Karlheinz Schreiber handed him in hotel rooms.
But the biggest thing that the UAW leadership and Fiat Chrysler want to cover up, is that their dedication to “labor-management cooperation” is to the benefit of the corporation and is against the interests of the union members. If the union had a culture of uncompromising struggle against the corporate elite, the union official that wanted to rub shoulders with executives and flaunt a lavish lifestyle would have stuck out like a sore thumb.
For 8 months Unifor President Jerry Dias has refused to act to stop the unnecessary exploitation of GM retirees’ health care trust by retired Unifor staffers.
In December of 2016 the Retired Workers Chapter and the GM Unit of Unifor Local 222 Oshawa moved a motion requesting that Dias replace the 5 retired staff members serving as trustees to the Health Care Trust (GM asr trust) with current staff. This has also been supported by the Unifor Local 199 Retired Workers Chapter, St. Catharines.
Why is it important to replace them? Once these staff members retired they started receiving exorbitant retainers and meeting fees from the Trust. These payments are currently $27,635 yearly plus $774 per meeting for each trustee. Assuming 4 meetings a year, this amounts to $30,731 annually, more than many of our members receive for their pension after a lifetime working in the plant. To add further insult, these payments are fully indexed to inflation, while our pensions have been frozen for 10 years.
The Health Care Trust was negotiated as part of the 2009 contract, and is supposed to provide health care benefits for GM and Fiat Chrysler retirees. When the trust was set up the trustees appointed by the union were not entitled to receive these payments because they were employees of the National Union. However, once they retired they then started to receive these payments from the Trust fund while also receiving extremely generous pensions and benefits from the National Union.
GM retirees have already taken a hit because the GM Health Care Trust was underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars when it was set up. As a result, our benefits have been cut by about 20% and our monthly contributions have been increasing by more than twice the rate of inflation. Retirees from Fiat Chrysler and Ford have not had their health care benefits cut. To have retired staff getting exorbitant retainers from our depleted funds is adding insult to injury.
Jerry Dias has never even bothered to respond personally to either the GM Unit or the Retired Workers Chapter of Local 222. Instead he has had his underlings reply with nothing more than a load of meaningless verbiage. They claimed that the retired trustees would be replaced in a timely manner – yet Sym Gill, who retired from his union position as Director of Pensions and Benefits in 2011, is still collecting his $30,000+ a year – 6 years later! Only one of the retired staff trustees has been replaced.
Local 222 has submitted a resolution to the Unifor Canadian Council Meeting being held August 18-20, 2017, demanding Dias act in accordance with the wishes of the active and retired members. He needs to be constantly reminded the monies in the trust do not belong to the Union; they belong to current and future GM retirees. I ask all delegates to stand with the retirees and support this resolution.