In Responce to Misguided Comments

January 29th 2019

After reading the St Catharines Standard I was pretty frustrated by the lack of understanding about the issues that are impacting autoworkers and the work that we autoworkers do.    I posted the following response to the misguided commentary attacking the workers (we make too much money, the plant closure in Oshawa is some how our own fault, etc). I was pretty frustrated by the lack of understanding about the issues that are impacting autoworkers today and it is quite obvious most don’t understand the work that we autoworkers do.

After I posted my comments in the Standard I received messages from people I’ve never spoken to in my life telling me how much they appreciated it, how their family members once worked for GM, how they acknowledge the great work we do in our communities. I thought it would be appropriate to share my comments on Facebook and also on the website as it reflects the opinions of most young workers at GM.

1. New auto workers at GM start at $21.17 and begin a 10 year progression to top rate. This is because we are a union shop. This also increases wages at Toyota and Honda.

2. A Canada-wide boycott of GM simply jeopardizes the 4000 jobs in manufacturing that will remain if Oshawa closes. An estimated 6 jobs rely on 1 auto manufacturing job in our communities. That’s a potential 24,000 job impact. On top of those jobs are the thousands of sales and mechanic jobs.

3. There are hundreds of pipe fitters, tool makers, electricians, machine repairs people, etc that make up the skilled trades portion of GM employment. They are highly skilled and dedicated to maintaining the machinery that helps the production workers produce some of the best vehicle parts and vehicles in the world.

4. No matter how low the wages of a worker are – a company does not lower the price of its product. Case and point is GM. They now pay an average Mexican Auto assembler $2-$5 dollars/hour. They have been doing this for decades. Has the cost of your vehicle gone down? No. No it hasn’t.

5. The average wage cost is calculated to be about 6% of the cost of a vehicle off the lot. Most of the cost is associated with overhead (engineering, advertising, management, etc). So wage cuts won’t save or create more jobs.

6. There used to be 10,000 (not including management) GM workers in St. Catharines. There are now 1,124 unionized employees and roughly 300 management/engineers.

7. The Canadian public helped “bailout” GM to the tune of $10 billion dollars. At the time the Mexican government put forward $0. Yes, GM paid back the MAJORITY of the debt owed. The Trudeau government forgave the remainder, to the tune of nearly $2 billion dollars. Some people seem to have short memories, so allow me to remind you also that the Harper government sold back all shares the Canadian public had in GM – at a loss. Thus giving up all bargaining power.

8. A further history lesson: Canada and the United States enjoyed the mutual benefit of the Auto-Pact, which created roughly 75,000 good paying middle class jobs in auto. Not including all the spin-off jobs. In 1999 the World Trade Organization, under pressure from companies in Europe and Japan, ruled the Auto-Pact discriminated against foreign automakers.

Canada and the US dissolved the Auto-Pact in 2001, removing the production to sales quota and replacing it with content rules under NAFTA. Those content rules stated that 62.5% of a vehicle be made in North America. That is when the strongest shift to produce in Mexico began – killing Canadian jobs.

9. Until the Harper government only about 4 free trade deals had been signed. 3 if you consider the US FTA and NAFTA were essentially the same beast, changing only with the addition of Mexico.

The Harper government signed roughly 9 free trade agreements while in power. Each of which was supported by Harper on the basis that the market would decide what was best (again jeopardizing Canadian jobs).

These free trade deals were not reciprocal in any way shape or form. Example; Korea ships roughly 250 vehicles to Canada to our 1. That’s a 250:1 ratio of imports to exports.

What we need is reciprocal trade deals and activist governments. Germany has 20% shares in some auto companies, holding them accountable to maintaining a German footprint. I think it is disappointing that some Canadians are blaming the workers. Again, our wages make up 6% of the cost of a vehicle. We could work for 1$ and the cost of a vehicle would remain unchanged. We need to be holding governments that run on promises of maintaining and building the middle class (Federal) and being “For the People” (Provincial) accountable to their promises.

Also, in the last 60 years, because of optional payroll deductions, GM St. Catharines workers have donated roughly $30 million to the United Way alone. GM St. Catharines workers, again through payroll deductions, raised $450,000 towards the construction of Brock University. The largest single donation at the time, which in turn got shovels in the ground – establishing an educational institution that employs roughly 3000 workers in our community.

Stop attacking the workers. We are your neighbours and care about our communities. We want anyone and everyone to have an opportunity to work a good job, have benefits, a pension, and build a stable wholesome future.

Start rallying with us to force stronger government support for more middle class jobs.

Jordan Lennox
Young Worker on the  Executive Board, Unifor Local 199

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