Lessons of the CAMI autoworkers’ strike in Canada
28 October 2017
The close to 2,800 General Motors workers who struck the company’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, for a month have suffered a major defeat. GM, with the connivance of the Unifor trade union, employed threats to ram through yet another rotten contract which met none of the strikers’ demands, including job security.
When the struggle was in its fourth week, GM management displayed its utter contempt for autoworkers and their families by threatening to shut down the plant and ramp up production in Mexico unless the strike was halted. Less than a day later, Unifor capitulated without a fight and wound up the strike by imposing virtually the same concessions-laden contract offered to the workers at the Detroit Three operations across Canada in 2016, which was adopted in the face of historic levels of opposition from autoworkers in the plants. Unifor head Jerry Dias, who had blustered only 24 hours before the end of the strike that Unifor would not take GM’s threats “sitting down,” instead ensured that the union rolled over.
The strike did not fail to achieve its goals due to a lack of readiness among GM workers to fight. On the contrary, workers made clear with their overwhelming strike vote, sacrifices during a month on the miserly union strike pay of $250 per week, and comments on the picket line that they were ready to wage a counter-offensive to overturn the years of wage freezes, the hated two-tier wage system, and other concessions imposed by Unifor and its predecessor, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW).
However, this struggle was sabotaged by Unifor. Although GM made profits of $9.43 billion (CAN $11.82 billion) last year, including record North American earnings for its…