By Doug Nesbitt
In October 1996, Canadian autoworkers struck General Motors in a battle against outsourcing and other concessions. 25,000 workers walked off the job for three weeks and held back the GM attack in Oshawa, St. Catharines, Ste-Therese, and Windsor. Only a year earlier, GM had posted a record annual profit of $6.9 billion.
Two weeks into the strike, autoworkers learned that GM was plotting to move tooling dies out of the Oshawa fabrication plant in a bid to undermine the strike. The company was also seeking an injunction against the pickets that were legally keeping trucks at bay that could otherwise ship out the equipment.
Learning of the plot, autoworkers responded swiftly with a well-organized seizure of the fabrication plant. Over a hundred welders, millwrights, and die-makers were recruited for the occupation, and hundreds more autoworkers were organized to protect them on the outside by ringing the plant. A dozen managers inside the plant were escorted out, with autoworkers telling them to leave their lunches behind.
Inside, autoworkers welded the doors shut behind them and carved up the dies to prevent any easy reassembly. Fuses were pulled from cranes, parts hidden around the plant, and chaining shut other doors.
“An illegal occupation does nothing to enhance future job prospects or investment,” cried a GM official.
Lasting not six hours, GM backed down and agreed to not touch the dies for the duration of the strike. The occupation proved decisive in beating back GM’s outsourcing drive and the strike was over in a week. GM’s bid to move the dies to its American operations failed, and so American operations began shutting down one by one, creating massive pressure on the company to settle.
Click to expand October 19 1996 Toronto Star article below: