General Motors Canada, through its lawyers, is demanding Unifor stop broadcasting and streaming an ad the company calls “knowingly false and misleading” or face legal action.
According to the letter, released by Unifor, the automaker was trying to stop the broadcast of Unifor’s "GM leaves Canadians Out In The Cold" commercial from airing during the Super Bowl Sunday and on all other platforms, including social media, thereafter.
A GM Canada spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of the letter Sunday.
“The advertisement, which is clearly intended to promote Unifor’s business interests and calculated to disparage GM’s business interests, contains several statements that are knowingly false and misleading in a material respect,” reads a letter, dated Feb. 1 to Unifor from lawyer Kevin Sartorio of Gowling WLG.
The ads says: “When GM needed help, we gave them $300 from every single Canadian.”
But, General Motors says the statements “are not only false but are designed intentionally and maliciously to mislead Canadian consumers and forever tarnish GM’s reputation with them.”
“No individual Canadian gave any of their money to GM. By stating otherwise, Unifor is attempting to make its grotesque mischaracterizations of GM’s conduct feel personal to Canadians,” the letter reads. “Unifor seeks to have Canadians believe that money was taken out of their pockets or accounts and simply given to GM. None of this happened and Unifor should be ashamed of these statements.”
The Canadian and Ontario governments in 2009 provided GM, which was facing financial collapse, with a bailout in the form of a repayable loan worth about $10 billion. GM has since repaid the loan.
“Unifor’s intent is to lead consumers to mistakenly conclude that GM took money that is now spent or retained. You know this is untrue,” the letter reads. “We are confident that if your advertisement correctly stated that GM fully honoured its obligations to pay back the entire loan and interest to the Canadian government that no reasonable person would characterize that honouring of obligations as ‘greed.’”
General Motors is asking Unifor to “remove all copies of the Advertisement from any publicly accessible media” and “cease and desist from any further communication of the Advertisement, its statements or any other false statements of a similar nature to any member of the public in any form or media whatsoever.”
Unifor told Automotive News Canada on Sunday it has no plans to remove the ad from any platform, including the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl on CTV, CTV2 and TSN.
“The commercial points out that Canadians have been loyal to GM and now the company is leaving us out in the cold,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement. “We stand by the belief that if GM wants to sell here then it needs to build here and we will not be intimidated from sharing that message with Canadians in this ad.”
General Motors Canada says it produces more than 210,000 vehicles annually at its Ingersoll, Ont., CAMI plant.
“Roughly the same as our total retail sales in 2018 and we build over 740,000 engines and transmissions per year in our St. Catharines plant. Several OEMs don’t build here at all,” the automaker says on its website.
General Motors in November said it would no longer allot product to the Oshawa factory, employing about 2,600 hourly workers, beyond 2019. The automaker is halting production of the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS and it will also end the shuttle program, which sees unfinished outgoing models of the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado shipped to Oshawa from Indiana to be completed.
If the union doesn’t pull its ads, the automaker says it will have no choice but to pursue civil legal action.
“GM expressly reserves its rights to avail itself of all available legal and equitable remedies for the unlawful and malicious conduct described, including but not limited to the right to obtain injunctive relief and to recover all losses or damage to GM’s business and reputation resulting from the same,” the letter says.
A second Unifor commercial urges consumers to take an online pledge not to buy GM vehicles made in Mexico. The ad demonstrates how consumers can easily identify where a vehicle is made through the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). If it starts with three it is made in Mexico.
“We import just three models from Mexico out of 47 we sell in Canada. The ‘VIN 3’ campaign just hurts Unifor’s members at GM Canada’s plants and over 60 Canadian suppliers who make parts here for Mexico in NAFTA,” GM says.
The two new Unifor ads will then run on high-visibility Canadian broadcasts of the Academy Awards, the Grammy Awards and during commercial breaks on NHL hockey games.