Oshawa Could be the Engine of a Green New Deal in Canada

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2013 ... March 4, 2020
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Oshawa Could be the Engine of a Green New Deal in Canada

Jon Milton

It was an event that had happened countless times before. General Motors had been producing cars in Oshawa for over 100 years, and the plant had been at the centre of car production in Canada. This time, though, was different. Workers at the plant crowded around the pickup truck and photographed it as it left the line. This one was the last one. The plant was closing.

Rebecca Keetch had been working at the GM plant since 2006. Workers at the plant, she tells Briarpatch, are some of the best in the business. The "fantastic skilled workforce has launched vehicles in record time," and has consistently "exceeded [GM’s] expectations." At its height, the facility in Oshawa employed between 17,000 and 22,000 workers, Keetch says. As that last truck rolled down the line, that number was down to 2,500. By the end of 2020, it will be 300.

When GM announced that the plant would be closing in 2018, the... battle cry from the national executive of Unifor -- the union that represents workers at the plant -- was that GM needs to stay. The union ran ads during the 2019 Superbowl accusing the company of "leaving workers out in the cold," and encouraged a boycott of Mexican-made GM vehicles.

Keetch is skeptical of the possibility that GM can be pressured to stay in Oshawa. "There’s nothing that the workers are able to do to stop this from happening," she says. "This is a political issue, and an issue with capitalism itself. Free trade laws have decimated our manufacturing, auto has been a victim of bad trade policy. We’re suffering the effects of that now."

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