Canadian union blasts GM over plant closures, urges Mexico boycott in Super Bowl ad

February 4, 2019

Canadian trade union Unifor took its grievances with General Motors to prime time during Super Bowl LIII Sunday in protest of the automaker's plan to shutter an assembly plant in Ontario. The union aired a dramatic commercial titled "GM Leaves Canadians Out in the Cold" calling for consumers in both Canada and the U.S. to boycott Mexico-made GM vehicles and characterized the automaker as greedy.

The Detroit Free Press reported that GM has threatened to sue the union. The automaker's legal counsel in Canada called the ad misleading and said it does not tell the full story of GM's restructuring and bankruptcy period.

In the ad, Unifor reminds consumers that taxpayers in Canada also helped bail out the automaker about a decade ago when GM declared bankruptcy. The Canadian government's share worked out to about $300 per citizen, according to the union.

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Unifor's public relations campaign to spur Canadian consumers follows GM's decision to close an assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario. The plant has been a staple GM facility for 80 years, but the automaker made the decision to shut the plant down last year in part because it is discontinuing the cars and trucks built there. GM has also announced plans to close a handful of plants in the U.S.

The union has approached GM with solutions to keep the Oshawa plant open, but GM has not agreed to any proposal. Unifor said it plans to continue airing the ad despite cease-and-desist threats from GM's legal team. The CBC reported that Unifor may look to buy ad space during the Academy Awards on Feb. 24. The ad is also available on YouTube and the union's Facebook page.

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Unifor President Jerry Dias said the union stands by the belief that if GM wants to sell cars in Canada, it needs to also build them in the country. The United Auto Workers union in the U.S. has also joined Unifor in calling for consumers to boycott Mexico-made vehicles. The ad in explains that Mexican-built vehicles feature a vehicle identification number that starts with the number 3. 

GM countered saying it has repaid its loan from the Canadian government with all interest and that it did not take advantage of Canadian taxpayers. GM has also since repaid its financial assistance to the U.S. government, which shelled out about $50 billion. The U.S. wrote off around $10.5 billion when it sold its shares in the automaker following the bailout.

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