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UAW joins Canada autoworkers’ call to boycott GM cars made in Mexico

The UAW is calling for consumers to buy GM cars only if they are assembled in the United States and Canada, and has released a 21/2-minute YouTube video as part of the UAW’s #GMinvestinUS social media effort. (Tribune News Service)
By Jamie L. Lareau Detroit Free Press

The UAW is joining Canada’s autoworkers’ union, Unifor, to apply pressure on General Motors to keep five plants in North America running.

The UAW is calling for consumers to buy GM cars only if they are assembled in the United States and Canada, and has released a 2 1/2-minute YouTube video as part of the UAW’s #GMinvestinUS social media effort. In it, the UAW reminds consumers how U.S. tax dollars helped GM through its 2010 bankruptcy, saying it’s now GM’s turn to invest in U.S. workers.

After President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at expanding his “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, UAW President Gary Jones also issued a statement.

“The President has taken important steps to adhere to the concept that the U.S. government and consumers should Buy American,” said Jones. “When consumers invest in the products of U.S. workers, we each make an investment in all of us. And it’s not just government.”

The UAW noted that it supports purchases of GM cars assembled in Canada, but not in Mexico, China and Poland.

Jones said it is time for GM to return the favor of the government bailout in 2010 that enabled the company to emerge from bankruptcy. The UAW and Unifor want GM to reverse its Nov. 26 announcement to indefinitely idle five plants in the United States and Canada, putting about 6,000 production workers’ jobs in jeopardy.

GM also plans to cut about 5,700 white-collar GM jobs after a round of voluntary buyouts fell short of the company’s target of 8,000 job reductions.

In response to the UAW’s new effort, GM said it “is committed to maintaining a strong manufacturing presence in the U.S., as evidenced by our more than $22 billion investments in U.S. operations since 2009 and more to come this year. For example, we have invested more than $4 billion to support full-size trucks and SUVs in Michigan, Indiana and Texas. The November 26 announcement supports our ability to invest for future growth and positions the company for long-term success, maintaining and growing American jobs.”

Super Bowl ad

GM has “an obligation to build where they sell and stop exporting jobs abroad,” said Jones.

Unifor is taking its boycott campaign to the Super Bowl. The union has paid for an ad to run during Sunday’s broadcast urging consumers to not buy Mexican-made GM cars, as reported by the Toronto Sun.

The ad will run in English and French. It also reminds viewers that when GM needed help, Canadians gave it a $10.8-billion bailout. Yet GM continued to expand in Mexico. It ends with the tagline, “You may have forgotten our generosity, but we’ll never forget your greed. You want to sell here. Build here,” according to the Toronto Sun.

The UAW has specific complaints about GM building cars abroad beyond just Mexico, it named Poland and China too. Here are the vehicles GM builds abroad and sells in the United States:

Poland: The Buick Cascada coupe

China: Buick Envision compact SUV, Cadillac CT6 sedan

Mexico: Chevrolet Cruze compact, Chevrolet Equinox SUV, GMC Terrain SUV, Chevrolet Trax compact SUV, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra crew cab pickups, new Chevrolet Blazer SUV

Ongoing battle

The UAW and Unifor have been waging an ongoing battle against GM since its Nov. 26 announcement to shutter Detroit-Hamtramck; Lordstown Assembly in Ohio; Oshawa in Ontario; Warren Transmission; and a transmission plant in Baltimore.

Unifor has held rallies, workers have walked off the job in protest and its president has met with GM leaders to offer suggestions to keep the Oshawa plant running.

GM CEO Mary Barra has held firm that the plant will close. In its latest effort, Unifor has urged consumers to not buy GM cars that have a vehicle identification number starting in “3” because that car was built in Mexico.

The UAW’s Jones has promised to “leave no stone unturned” to save the plants. The UAW released the new YouTube video Thursday and has various billboards around metro Detroit reminding consumers of the taxpayer bailout and urging GM to invest in U.S. workers, said UAW Spokesman Brian Rothenberg.

But when asked on Jan. 16 if Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown assembly plants might be allocated some of the 20 new electric vehicles GM has said it wants to build, Barra offered little hope that the plants will keep humming.

“When we made the very difficult decision about the plants impacted, we have other plants that have lower capacity utilization that we’d want to increase,” Barra said. “We have more products coming that we will build in the United States and we’ll provide opportunities.” But she added, “We need to make sure the capacity is up at other plants that we’re still working to improve.”