Canadian Auto Workers Fight for Contract Transparency

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2192 ... September 14, 2020
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Canadian Auto Workers Fight for Contract Transparency

Rebecca Keetch

As bargaining at the Detroit Three automakers kicks off in Canada, union members are fighting back against a longstanding undemocratic contract ratification process. In an unprecedented development, the Solidarity Movement, a rank-and-file movement within Unifor, has launched a petition to demand full disclosure of the collective agreement before voting takes place. Since the launch in early August, more than 1,800 members have signed.

Though the collective agreement is one of the most important documents to shape a worker’s life, Canadian auto workers at General Motors, Fiat-Chrysler, and Ford are not allowed to see it before we are asked to ratify it. Unifor, the largest private sector union in Canada, represents nearly 17,000 auto workers at the Detroit Three.

The petition calls on Unifor leadership to "provide full disclosure of the contents of the contract, five days before ratification, by publishing all revisions, additions, deletions, and changes to the contract, clearly marked, on the Unifor National website and the websites of the locals involved in... ‘Detroit Three’ bargaining." It also requests "that the ratification highlights include a clear statement of all money and benefits negotiated on behalf of union representatives and any money or benefits negotiated to be paid to the Locals and/or National Union."

In the US, the United Auto Workers publishes the full contract with all changes on its website where Detroit Three members can read it before they go to their ratification/information meetings -- a long-time demand of American union reformers. The UAW began posting the tentative Detroit Three contracts online in 2011.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias has been dismissive. When asked for comment by Automotive News, Dias was reported as saying "the petition was not on his radar." "I’ll take my lead from the leadership, and leadership will make a decision on what they want to do internally within their own workplaces," Dias said. "I don’t chase mice when I’m hunting elephants."

The Solidarity Movement asks who Jerry thinks are the mice? The members’ concerns should be acknowledged, not simply dismissed. Real democracy means taking our lead from the members.

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