Take It Over: The Struggle for Green Production in Oshawa

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1893 ... September 16, 2019

Take It Over: The Struggle for Green Production in Oshawa

Linda McQuaig

In November 2018, Detroit-based General Motors dealt a staggering blow to 2,700 Canadian workers when it announced plans leading to the closure of a key automotive assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario. In its heyday decades earlier, GM Oshawa had been the largest auto complex in North America and had employed twenty-three thousand workers. But those numbers had been steadily reduced over the years, and now it was to be shut down -- along with several GM plants in the United States -- as part of the ongoing move by the automaker to relocate ever more of its production to low-wage Mexico.

Unifor, the union representing Canadian auto workers, protested vehemently and focused on trying to negotiate a less draconian deal with GM in order to save at least some of the jobs. Meanwhile, the Trudeau government in Ottawa and the Ford government in Toronto signalled their willingness to accept the closure of the plant without a fight.

One veteran of the... auto industry calling for a more robust response from government has been Sam Gindin, who served from 1974 to 2000 as research director of the Canadian Auto Workers (Unifor’s predecessor). Now an adjunct professor at York University, Gindin argues that giving up on Oshawa amounts to a "disheartening failure of [the] imagination." Instead, he suggests serious consideration be given to expropriating the GM Oshawa plant and turning it into a publicly owned facility that would produce some of the vast array of products that will be needed in the transition to green energy: wind turbines, solar panels, energy-saving lighting, motors, appliances, and electric vehicles.

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