A Honda plant in Alliston, Ontario may become the first Japanese-owned auto plant to go union. The plant employs 4,500 people in a town of 15,000 and while the employees are welcome to use the NHL regulation size hockey rink housed there, many feel their high overall output is not being fairly rewarded.
Contract talks with “the Detroit three” are rapidly approaching and Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) President Ken Lewenza says his union’s organization efforts have been effective at the facility:
Workers at Honda’s Alliston, ON, assembly plant, which builds the Honda Civic and CR-V and Acura MDX and ZDX cross/utility vehicles, recently were provided a company handout showing their wage of some $31 an hour is on par with the Detroit Three auto makers that have production facilities in the region.
However, the CAW argues Honda’s wage calculations fail to consider items such as lower-paid contract workers at Alliston and include full bonuses not every worker receives.
“When they are doing that in a very concerted way, you know we are getting (Honda’s) attention,” Lewenza says.
Organizing the Alliston plant could play a pivotal role in negotiations by adding to it’s current 25,000 person membership. It could also help North American auto unions enter Japanese-owned facilities which could eventually raise wages for workers across the trade:
The outcome of those negotiations could dictate the union’s momentum in organizing the two Japanese auto makers’ workers.
As with his U.S. counterpart Bob King, president of the UAW union, Lewenza has his eye on bolstering union membership rolls by organizing so-called Japanese transplants building cars and trucks in Canada.
And not unlike King, Lewenza says he faces “very anti-union employers putting a lot of resources and time into keeping the union out.”
Lewenza, though, admits that breaking this barrier will not be easy:
“We’re getting some enthusiastic and strong support, but we’re not there yet.”