A petition demanding Unifor leaders follow the lead of their American counterparts and disclose the full contents of tentative contracts with the Detroit 3 ahead of ratification votes has gained about 1,400 signatures, according to organizers.
The petition calls on the union to “publish all revisions, additions, deletions and changes to the contract, clearly marked,” on its website, as well as on the websites of the locals involved with bargaining the contract. It also asks that the union “include a clear statement of all money and benefits negotiated on behalf of union reps and any money or benefits negotiated to be paid” to the local or national union.
Rebecca Keetch, a laid-off worker at General Motors’ Oshawa, Ontario, plant told Automotive News Canada the petition stems from frustration with the ratification process. Without knowing the full details of the contract ahead of time, it is impossible for workers to ask all the relevant questions they might want answered during ratification meetings with union leadership, she said.
“This isn’t an attack on leadership in any way. This is an exercise in achieving our democratic rights,” Keetch said. “Our union constitution is full of statements about transparency and democracy, so I think that it’s important that whenever possible our union uphold these standards to the fullest.”
The petition comes as bargaining between Unifor and the Detroit 3 heats up ahead of contracts expiring on Sept. 21. Unifor, which represents about 17,000 autoworkers under those contracts, has made securing long-term product commitments and wage gains its top priorities.
Unifor President Jerry Dias said the petition was not on his radar and that he would defer to local leadership on matters relating to ratification votes.
“I’ll take my lead from the leadership, and leadership will make a decision on what they want to do internally within their own workplaces,” Dias said. “I don’t chase mice when I’m hunting elephants.”
Currently, Unifor workers receive a highlights sheet from the union detailing the major gains and changes from the previous contract and are given a chance to ask questions of leadership ahead of a vote. But Keetch said the membership needs more details ahead of voting on whether to ratify an agreement.
“The highlights sheet and the information meeting are extremely important aspects of this,” she said. “But how can you know what questions you need to ask when you’re handed a sheet just before you go in?”
She urged Unifor to follow the example of the UAW in the U.S. The UAW posts its “white book,” which details in full changes to the contract and agreements between the union and automaker, in the days leading up to a ratification vote.
“I think that a pretty important component to democracy is being able to make an informed decision,” Keetch said.