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Unifor Local 88 represents autoworkers at General Motors’ CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, ON.

'Effectively there is no border': How a Unifor Strike in Canada Would Affect the North American Auto Industry

A Unifor strike in Canada would shake the U.S., given the close integration of the countries’ automotive supply chains.

In late August, Unifor, the union representing more than 18,000 autoworkers in Canada, announced that it had selected Ford Motor Company as the target for its negotiations with the Big Three automakers, which also includes General Motors and Stellantis. After Unifor strikes a deal with Ford, it plans to use the resulting contract as a model for its labor agreements with the other two companies.

“Ford was selected as the target because we believe that the company is in the best position to reach an agreement that delivers on the needs of our members and sets a strong pattern for Canada’s auto industry,” Unifor National President Lana Payne said in an August statement.

Competition vs. collaboration

For the first time in more than 20 years, Unifor and the UAW are negotiating contracts at the same time. While the two unions have worked together in the past, experts suggested competition may be more likely than collaboration.

Unifor and the UAW are separate unions now, but it wasn’t always that way. Now named Unifor, the union was part of the United Auto Workers as UAW Canada. However, when the American auto industry was struggling in 1985, the Canadian wing broke away from the UAW because it did not agree with the concessions the American union supported. That year, UAW Canada became the Canadian Auto Workers, which in 2013 merged with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union to form Unifor, the largest private sector union in Canada.

Two countries, one industry

In the U.S., the auto industry is concentrated in the Midwest but spread throughout the country. But Canada’s auto industry is “essentially an industry in southwest Ontario,” Holmes said. “Ontario is really just part of this highly integrated automotive production system around the Great Lakes region,” he said, which includes U.S. states such as Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Parts manufactured in Canada are exported to the U.S., and U.S.-made components are shipped to Canada; investment in one country’s industry still supports the other.

In other words, the Canadian auto industry does not exist in a vacuum. In fact, 85% of cars built in Canada are exported to the U.S.

Read the fuill article here on Automotive Dive.


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