Canadian union's ad blitz to GM: 'Keep our plants open'

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News
Unifor Canada posted this photo on social media Wednesday showing signs saying 'GM betrayed Canadian Taxpayers' and 'Save Oshawa GM,' positioned across the river from GM's headquarters.

The trade union that represents Canada's autoworkers is using General Motors Co.'s hometown newspapers to deliver a message as top union officials arrive in Detroit on Thursday to meet with the automaker's leaders. 

"U.S. and Canadian workers made GM," reads the front page of an advertisement wrapping the Thursday editions of The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. "Why should our jobs and our products go to Mexico? Keep our plants open."

Unifor, a Canadian general trade union representing auto workers at GM's endangered Oshawa, Ontario, plant and elsewhere, is using the ad to urge GM to reconsider plans that would see four plants in the U.S. and one in Canada idled next year.

Inside, the four-page ad speaks directly to the automaker: "GM, if you sell here you have to build here." The back page of the ad is designed to be displayed in a window with the text, "I support GM workers."

Ahead of its trip to Detroit, Unifor held a rally on the Detroit River in Windsor on Wednesday, in view of GM's Renaissance Center headquarters. Unifor officials are expected to meet with GM at the headquarters to discuss the future of the Oshawa Assembly plant as well as other GM operations in Canada.

“GM made commitments to invest in Canada but instead seems intent on continuing to bleed away Canadian production and jobs while it continues to expand in Mexico,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a statement confirming the Thursday meeting with GM officials. “Unifor will be making it clear that if GM expects to sell in Canada then it needs to build in Canada.”

Both the United Auto Workers and Unifor have criticized GM for building abroad too many vehicles sold in the U.S. and Canada. The unions — and federal lawmakers —  have lambasted GM for its decision to build the upcoming Chevrolet Blazer at its plant in Ramos, Mexico. The UAW also challenged GM's ability to "unallocate" the plants outside of contract negotiations. 

GM already imports from Mexico the Chevrolet Equinox, Trax and Cruze hatchback, as well as the GMC Terrain. The automaker imports one vehicle from China, the Buick Envision. Its three Buick Regal models are assembled in Germany, and its compact Buick Encore SUV is built in South Korea.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, when some workers were still on holiday vacation, GM announced a sweeping restructuring of its workforce and manufacturing operations that would stop production at five plants and would cut some 8,000 white-collar jobs. The U.S. plants include Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Warren Transmission, the Lordstown Complex in northeast Ohio, and Baltimore Operations in Maryland.

The Detroit automaker said last week it would be able to offer new positions to roughly 2,700 of the 2,800 active U.S. hourly employees affected by the plant idlings. For Canadian workers, GM is working with dealers, local colleges and other employers to train and help secure jobs for impacted workers.

"I understand how GM's recent news is affecting our colleagues, families and communities," GM CEO Mary Barra wrote in a Friday tweet. "Our focus remains on helping employees ... We're committed to doing the right thing, for the future of GM and our people."

Twitter: @NoraNaughton