Posted by: Ian Ross | March 10, 2009

Auto Workers Told To Speak Up

Canadian autoworkers are being revved up by their union president to change public perceptions they are underskilled and overpaid. And now could be the perfect time.

Auto Assembly Line

According to the Toronto Star, Ken Lewenza, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers, “told more than 1,500 workers … they need to become more active in combating any public attacks on their pay and benefit packages. The president of the Canadian Autoworkers Union has called on his members to speak up about the value of their profession.”

We all know the auto industry is in bad shape. The corporate offices at GM, Chrysler and Ford are taking a beating in the press for bad management decisions — especially when the bigwigs jump into corporate jets for meetings. So the union may have a great window of opportunity to look like the good guys.

I think they showed a good start over the past week negotiating with GM Canada for less — a wage freeze, lost bonuses, less holiday time and increased health fees for retirees. And they did it with some grace. No threats or strikes.

So perhaps now is the right time for Canadian autoworkers to really try to shift public attitudes. And that is going to take all of their workers communicating to others in their communities, as Lewenza suggests. A real grassroots effort.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out.

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