The Ford Windsor Strike 1945    
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Many employers wished to use the end of the war as an excuse to return to conditions as they were prior to the war when workers were unable to form unions.



1. MEN AT MEETING, 1945.

In order to ensure that this did not happen, workers from UAW Local 200 employed by the Ford Motor Company in Windsor, demanded that the company agree to:

  • A union shop
  • Dues check-off.

 

In a "union shop" everyone working in a plant would automatically be members of the union. With "dues check-off" the company would deduct union dues from the members pay cheques and hand the dues over to the union Ford had agreed to these terms with its workers at Ford's River Rouge plant in 1941. During the war, the UAW had to collect dues from its members on a monthly basis. With thousands of members, this became a full-time activity and made it difficult for the union to function.

   
 
   
 


2. BLOCKADE, WINDSOR, 1945.

Negotiations stalled and on September 12, 1945, 11,000 Ford workers went on strike and stayed out for 99 days. The 1945 Windsor Ford strike was historic.

  • It established the principle of union security.
  • It ensured that the gains labour won during the full employment years of the war would not be reversed.
  • Unions could take their place as a legitimate part of Canadian society.

As the strike started, World War II was just coming to an end. Thousands of soldiers were returning to Canada and reentering the workforce. Corporations were looking to return to the pre-war years when they had greater control over workers. In taking on the largest company in the country, Ford workers led the way in establishing a mood of confidence that Canadian workers could continue to fight to make gains.

   
   
   
   The
   Blockade
The Blockade
 


3. VIEW OF AUTO BLOCKADE, NOV. 6, 1945.

Early on in the strike, the strikers closed the company's power house down shutting off the heating system for the plant. As winter approached, pressure built to reopen the plant. The Local Police Commission overruled the Mayor of Windsor, Art Reume who supported the strike, and proposed using the police to reopen the powerhouse. At the same time, the province sent in hundreds of O.P.P. and R.C.M.P. officers. Roy England, President of UAW Local 200, expressed his outrage at the growing threat of police aggression:

 

"The proposals of members of the police commission to use police to break through picket lines to escort watchmen in the powerhouse is nothing less than an attempt at strike-breaking. This is not what our returning veterans and the production workers fought for during the war in which they so gloriously upheld Canada’s part in victory."

From Strike: 99 Days On The Line, by Mary E. Baruth-Walsh and G. Mark Walsh, pp. 66.

 


4. MOUNTIES WERE FLOWN INTO WINDSOR AFTER THE CITY POLICE WERE UNABLE TO PIERCE THE PICKET LINE AT THE FORD PLANT, NOV. 5, 1945.
 
5. WOMEN MARCHING IN THE PICKET LINE ON CHARLES STREET, SEPT. 12, 1945.

 

   
   
   

On November 5, as tensions mounted, 8,000 workers from 25 plants organized by Local 195 walked off the job in solidarity with the Ford workers. They stayed out for one month - with no strike pay. The next day, the union, anxious to avoid bloodshed, formed a blockade of cars and trucks stretching 20 blocks around the giant Ford plant.

George Burt talks about how the blockade was formed.

"We were not well enough off in those days to have the thousands of people with cars they had in the United States, but most of the workers with cars did respond, and they established a barricade so that when public cars came down Riverside Drive they unwittingly were trapped in the congestion and reinforced our park-in siege.

The city buses were organised, and I don't know whether they acted with aforethought, but they drove into the jam and tangled into this great clot of cars. We did make one mistake. There was a fellow with a load of fish, and at our invitation he left his truck in the middle of the demonstration. It stayed there for days and when a spot of warm weather came along we very much regretted we had extended our hospitality to the fish-monger."
from Where Was George Burt?, pp.40.

 

Three days later, the blockade was removed. It had been a success. The police and the RCMP did not intervene. On November 23, following the resumption of negotiations, the powerhouse was reopened with the permission of Local 200.

   
   
   


6. BLOCKADE BREAKING UP, MEN PUSHING CARS AWAY, 1945.

 
7. HANDBILL OF THE CBRE, 1945.

 

   
   
 

The strike received strong support from the Windsor community.

  • Soldiers back from the front lines marched in solidarity rallies.
  • Church groups and local businesses pitched in to help the strikers and their families.
  • The Women’s Auxiliary fed 11,000 picketers.
  • Financial support came from unions across the country.
   
   
   
   The Strike
   Ends
The Strike Ends
 

8. UNION AND GOVERNMENT MEETING

On November 29, the Federal Government tabled a proposal to end the strike. The proposal included binding arbitration on the union shop and dues check-off issues. On December 16, after 99 days on strike, the membership voted to accept the terms and allow the issue of union security to go to third party arbitration on the condition that the arbitrator be someone who was sympathetic to the union. The decision of the arbitrator, Justice Ivan Rand, provided for the dues check-off, but not for the union shop.

The strike was a success not just in winning the struggle for union security. It:

  • Established the legitimacy of unions in Canada.
  • Gave the Canadian labour movement the confidence to fight for post-war gains.

 

George Burt summed up the view of the union in his report to Canadian Council following the strike:


9. SOUND CAR, NOV. 2, 1945

"It is our belief that we have won the strike and we have confidence that the weight of this strike has had the effect of shaking the government into a greater realization of the problems of organized labour and has awakened the Canadian people to the realization that the success of post-war rehabilitation depends a great deal upon the labour movement. We feel the strike will have an effect of softening the manufacturers when our demands for wage increases are made public."
Report to Canadian Council, January 19 and 20, 1946.

   
   
. The Ford Windsor Strike 1945    
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  1. City of Toronto Archives, Boyd Collection, SC266-100140
2. City of Toronto Archives, Boyd Collection, SC266-99991
3. Art Gallery of Windsor. Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum
4.
Windsor Star. Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum
5. Art Gallery of Windsor. Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum
6. City of Toronto Archives, Boyd Collection, SC266-100020
7. Archives of Labor & Urban Affairs Wayne State University. Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum
8. City of Toronto Archives, Boyd Collection, SC266-100013
9. Windsor Star. Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum