The Canadian Auto Workers has launched an organizing campaign at Toyota Motor Corp.'s assembly plant in Cambridge, Ontario, where it tried and failed three years ago.
The campaign began this month and is expected to run into 2005. The plant has 4,000 workers who build the Toyota Corolla, Camry Solara and Matrix and Lexus RX 330.
The organizing effort pits the CAW and UAW in an organizing contest for the last two nonunion Canadian auto assembly plants. The UAW is trying to organize Honda Motor Co.'s plant in Alliston, Ontario. The CAW also tried and failed to enlist union representation there.
CAW President Buzz Hargrove says his union has a better shot at organizing Toyota than it did in
July 2001. One key reason: The plant last year started building a Lexus model in addition to the three Toyota models.
"With Lexus, the workers feel like their situation is more secure," Hargrove says. "Early on, when Toyota was just building the Corolla there, a lot of workers were afraid that if they joined the union, Toyota would shut the plant and move production somewhere else."
Neither the CAW nor the UAW has been able to organize workers at plants that are not affiliated with the Big 3. Both unions are hungry for more members. CAW membership has grown to 260,000 in the past two decades. The UAW membership has fallen from about 1.5 million in the 1970s to below 640,000.
This year, the UAW targeted Honda's 4,300-worker Canadian plant. The automaker produces the Honda Civic, Odyssey and Pilot and Acura MDX and EL in Alliston. A UAW spokesman was not available for comment.
But Hargrove says the campaign has gone nowhere. "I don't know why they're bothering," he says. "They don't have any support inside Honda."
Hargrove says he believes that once Toyota is organized, workers at Honda will fall in line with the rest of the industry and embrace the CAW.
But winning at Toyota is no sure bet. This year, after workers at Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Ky., failed to show interest in months of UAW organizing activity, the union withdrew from campaigning there.
Toyota also operates auto and engine plants in Indiana, Alabama and West Virginia where workers have shown little or no interest in union representation.
Toyota's Cambridge plant has about 1,400 more workers than it had in 2001. While it produced two models in 2001, the Toyota Corolla and Camry Solara, it now builds four as well as engines. Production capacity is 300,000 vehicles annually, and it is the only plant outside Japan that assembles Lexus vehicles.
The 2001 organizing bid failed when the union miscalculated the number of eligible workers at the plant.
Under Canadian law, once a union shows that 40 percent of an eligible work force has signed cards calling for an election, the vote must be held within five business days.