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UAW/CAW Local 1520

Women in the Workforce

Labour Relations

UAW/CAW Local 1520 History

The workers at the St. Thomas Ford Assembly Plant originally belonged to the United Auto Workers’ Union, Local 1520. This Union was established and certified as their bargaining agent by the Ontario Labour Relations Board on December 19, 1967 (Wilkinson 10), and the Local 1520 was formed in January 1968. As the Union existed for the benefit of the workers, it is understandable that relations were at times strained between the Union and St. Thomas Ford.


C9 Sh2 B1 F49 2 - Local 1520 - Local Office
Photograph used in St. Thomas Times-Journal article published [1980?] with caption: "This office, located north of the Talbotville Ford assembly plant and adjacent to Highway 401, is home for Local 1520 of the United Auto Workers. A large auditorium, lounge, baseball diamonds, soccer field, and children's playground have been provided here from the pay cheques of union members."

Within two years of the plant opening, workers began protesting mandatory overtime. In June of 1969, the Union was able to negotiate with St. Thomas Ford to try voluntary overtime and give up Saturday Production (13). However, the issue did not end there; in December 1970, there were several work stoppages to bring attention to workers’ problems and concerns – in particular, the desire for completely voluntary overtime - and the Union set a strike date for January 1971 (14).

A year and a half later, on Monday, June 26, 1972, 950 workers did not show up for work in protest of the company’s decision not to give them a 3-day weekend because Canada Day fell on a Saturday. These workers failed to listen to the Union’s constant urging for employees to file grievances through the proper channels rather than simply refusing to work. As a result, St. Thomas Ford filed grievances against them and these grievances were settled in favour of the company (16-17).

Perhaps having learned from the 1972 experience, in 1973 workers filed grievances regarding time clocks not working properly and employees being penalized if they failed to punch out. However, the arbitrator ruled in favour of the company once again (18).

In September 1975, St. Thomas Ford laid off many workers, but then began scheduling the remaining workers for mandatory overtime hours. Employees filed grievances against the company in October; “the Union argued that this was a violation of the Collective Agreement…and the company was forced to pay approximately $75,000 in back pay to those on layoff” (p. 20).

In 1976, Local 1520 narrowly escaped severe punishment after the St. Thomas Ford workers jumped a strike deadline (20-21).

October 1979 brought about a new contract agreement which “limited the work week to 44 hours (9 hours Monday-Thursday and 8 hours on Friday) and a voluntary 8 hour shift on Saturday if overtime was needed” (p. 31). This reduction in work continued for several years to come. Multiple two-week layoffs occurred throughout 1980 due to a decline in the demand for cars, and December 5, 1980 through February 9, 1981 marked the longest layoff since St. Thomas Ford had opened (31). Only six months after bringing employees back, the plant experienced a recession and was only open for four days between September and December of 1981 (33-34).

Ray Standen became the first member of Local 1520 to retire from the St. Thomas Ford Assembly Plant on May 28, 1982. He was honoured at the Local’s General Membership meeting that month, and the Local gifted him with a luggage set (37).

On December 17, 1983, the Local’s Service Representative of fifteen years, Jack Taylor, also retired.

Over the years Local 1520 frequently supported other UAW Locals in their legal strikes by joining the pickets lines, and they likewise welcomed the support of their Union brothers and sisters in their own strikes at the St. Thomas Ford Assembly Plant.

Source: Wilkinson, Marilyn E. Local 1520: A History of the U.A.W. at the St. Thomas Assembly Plant, 1968-1984. St. Thomas: UAW Local 1520, 1984. Print.

In 1985, Canadian members of the U.S. based United Auto Works Union decided to establish their own Canadian controlled union, forming the Canadian Auto Workers Union. From 1985 until the plant closed in September, 2011, workers at the Ford St. Thomas Assembly Plant were represented by Local 1520 of the CAW.

For more information on the history of the CAW, see:

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