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As GM layoffs hit, a Canadian union aired a scathing Super Bowl ad

As GM layoffs hit, a Canadian union aired a scathing Super Bowl ad

Last year, General Motors announced plans to lay off over 14,000 North American workers. One of the facilities reportedly being shuttered is in Oshawa, Canada–and the union representing those Canadian workers, Unifor, has been fighting for months. Last night, during one of the most viewed programs of the year, Unifor aired an ad that didn’t mince words.

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“When GM needed help, we gave them $300 from every single Canadian,” the ad said, describing the 2009 federal bailout it and Chrysler received. “GM continues to expand in Mexico,” the narrator continued, “leaving workers in the cold.” The advertisement concludes, “GM, you may have forgotten our generosity, but we’ve never forgotten your greed.”

Today, mere hours after Unifor aired the scathing advertisement, sweeping layoffs are expected to hit GM, reports the Toronto Sun.

The Detroit News explains that last night’s advertisement is part of a months-long campaign led by the union to force the company to negotiate. Following news last year that the Oshawa plant was one of the four plants planned to be shut down, Unifor began spreading its message far and wide–most recently with this Super Bowl spot. Last month, the union called for a full-on boycott of the car manufacturer. GM, meanwhile, has refused to rethink its downsizing plan.

GM is not thrilled with this campaign. Last Friday, its lawyers sent Unifor a cease and desist letter, demanding the union both take its videos offline and refrain from airing them during the football event. In a statement to the Detroit News on Sunday, GM said:

While GM respects Unifor’s rights to protest, we cannot condone purposely misleading the Canadian public. Unifor knows that GM Canada repaid its 2009 loans in full, and that the restructured GM fulfilled all the terms of its agreements with the Canadian government many years ago. Since 2009, GM Canada has contributed over $100 billion to the Canadian economy including $8 billion invested into worker pensions.

Unifor was not moved by this legal maneuver. I reached out to GM for comment about whether it will continue to seek legal action and will update this post if I hear back.

For now, millions of Canadians saw the advertisement last night, and the thousands of GM workers–in Canada and the U.S.–are going to wake up today to learn they’re being let go.

Update: GM provided me with this statement about the layoffs:

This is the implementation of the salaried actions announced late last year. These actions are necessary to secure the future of the company, including preserving thousands of jobs in the U.S. and globally. We are taking action now while the overall economy and job market are strong, increasing the ability of impacted employees to continue to advance in their careers, should they choose to do so.

Our focus now is on working with each individual employee on providing severance packages and transition support through job placement services.

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