Unifor’s national president believes Canada has entered an “organizing moment” following a series of auto deals, but a labor relations expert says anti-union campaigns by employers will make it difficult to seize the moment.
Lana Payne says she sees the union stepping up at a time when workers want a bigger share of the profits.
“We don’t always have moments like this. So when you do, you have to take advantage of them,” said Payne, whose members have also ratified agreements following strikes at Metro, Windsor Salt and St. Lawrence Seaway grocery stores. this year.
More than 19,000 auto workers, mostly in Ontario, are working under a new three-year contract after four months of negotiations with automakers Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.
The three separate deals follow a master agreement that includes a nearly 20 percent raise for production workers over the life of the deal, a $10,000 signing bonus for full-time employees and a cost-of-living allowance tied to inflation.
Under this agreement, a production worker with four years of experience will earn $44.52 per hour.
The agreements are in addition to provisional agreements reached by the United Auto Workers in the United States after a 45-day strike.
Payne said these are historic contracts that benefit more than just their membership.
Payne pointed to Toyota as an example, which announced this week a seven percent raise for production workers in the United States.
“We have workers across the auto sector who are already benefiting from what we’ve accomplished in this round of negotiations, even though they potentially aren’t union members,” Payne said.
UAW seeks to unionize Tesla and Toyota
UAW President Shawn Fain led a strike against the three automakers that he said laid the foundation for building the union beyond the Detroit Three.
“Toyota is not giving raises out of the goodness of its heart,” he told members in an update this month.
“They did it now because the company knows we’re coming after them.”
In a statement to Breaking:, Toyota Canada confirmed it recently made changes to employee compensation.
“We value our employees and their contributions, and we demonstrate this by offering strong compensation packages that we continually review to ensure we remain competitive within the automotive industry,” a company spokesperson said in an email.
Fain, who met with President Joe Biden on Thursday, He previously told Bloomberg that he believes organizing Tesla workers is “doable.”
Unifor’s Payne has said he expects to see organizing efforts increase across all sectors following collective bargaining agreements in Canada.
“We take this work now and use it as an organizing moment, not just in the auto sector, but we’ve been doing it in many sectors right now because we’ve been negotiating monster collective bargaining agreements… with enormous progress.” for workers,” Payne said.
“I think we’re going to see an increase in organization in Canada as a result of what’s being accomplished, I would say across the board, certainly in the automotive sector, but also elsewhere.”
According to the most recent data, 29 percent of Canadian workers belong to a union, up from 38 percent in 1981.
Faced with “harsh anti-union campaigns”
Rachel Aleks has followed these negotiations closely while teaching labor studies courses to students at the University of Windsor.
“They’re very interested in what’s going on,” said Aleks, who will have Dave Cassidy, president of the Unifor local union that represents Windsor Stellantis workers, attend a class this month.
Alex, who has investigated the way unions and employers fight for first contractsbelieves these contracts will make non-union workers think about organizing.
“It’s definitely a motivator for workers to join a union or form one and, if they already have one, really push for what they feel they deserve,” he said.
Aleks’ research, published in the Journal of Industrial Relationsfound that employers continue to use unfair labor practices when employees begin to organize efforts.
Such practices, which may include unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment and threatening closure, can make it difficult to secure a first contract.
“Employers run a very tough anti-union campaign and therefore, even if there is interest from workers, this might not translate into actual organizing that creates certified bargaining units,” Aleks said.
Through his research focused on U.S. companies, Aleks found that there are things unions can learn from recent organizing efforts that could increase the odds of forming a union.
Research has shown that unions can be more successful by building external support through public rallies or by forming coalitions with community allies.
“It will be interesting to see if this actually translates into organizing new members,” Aleks said.