Ford Strike of 1945

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The 99-day Ford Strike of 1945 took place in Windsor, Ontario, Canada from September 12 1945 to December 19 1945. Under CAW Local 200 President Roy England, 10 000 workers walked off their jobs after 24 of their demands went unmet by the Ford Motor Company. Negotiations for a new contract had spanned 18 months and officially ended with the exodus of Ford workers at ten o'clock on the morning of September 12. The Strike included picketing and eventually led to a two-day blockade of vehicles surrounding the Ford plant on November 5. The strike ended on December 19 as both sides agreed to return to previous working conditions while arbitration regarding implementing a fully- unionized shop and medical coverage continued under Justice Ivan C. Rand. His report was released on January 29, 1946. The Rand Formula, as it became known, gave the UAW formal recognition as the sole negotiators representing all employees of Ford Motor Company.

Context and outcomes

The return of the workforce after World War Two had resulted in a flooded job market and Ford wished to return to prewar working conditions. This was cause for serious concern as labour had made several notable advances over the previous few years. During 1941-42 the Ford plant was fully unionized and a functional relationship between union and company had been established. Due to the scarcity of workers, Ford began treating its employees better while the Union kept strikes to a minimum in order to support the war effort throughout this period. With the influx of returning workers at the end of the war, this dynamic quickly began to change.

The strike was declared on the morning of September 12, 1945. The workers had a list of 24 demands of which the most notable were a unionized shop with check-off dues, increased job security, better wages and improved working conditions. Support for the strike was fairly widespread throughout the city of Windsor and included such powerful figures as Mayor Art Reaume. The City Council initially promised that police would not be called in but this support wavered briefly during the car blockade of November 5November 7. Fearing that the plant might be forcibly reopened, picketers set up a barricade of cars and buses to keep out both police and non-striking workers. In a heated debate that followed, the City of Windsor called for order to be restored. Though some workers felt that removing the barricade would be considered a sign of weakness, all cars were eventually returned to their rightful owners and the strike continued peacefully.

The Ford Strike of 1945 ended anti-climactically on December 19 when picketers agreed to resume work while an agreement was still being reached. Under the arbitration of Justice Ivan C. Rand a compromise was eventually brokered. Though many of the Unions demands were accepted, it was not considered a total victory. Rand decided that it would be unfair to set up a closed shop where all workers were required to also be Union members. He did however make the paying of Union dues compulsory and their collection a responsibility of the Ford Motor Company. In this way the Union became a thoroughly integrated institution in the company’s operations and could no longer be ignored or circumvented. The effects of the Rand Formula on Ford’s labour relations can be felt to this very day.

References

  • Baruth-Walsh, Mary E. and Mark Walsh. Strike 99 Days on the Line. Canada: Penumbra Press, 1995. ISBN 0921254687 (hardcover), ISBN 0921254695
  • Colling, Herb. The Ford Strike in Windsor: 99 Days. Toronto: NC Press, 1995. ISBN 1550210882
  • Colling, Herb. “Ford Strike of ‘45” in Best of Times Magazine, ed., Elaine Weeks. Windsor: Walkerville Publishing Co., 2006.
  • Abella, Irving M. On Strike: Six Key Labour Strikes in Canada, 1919-49. Toronto: James Lorimer, 1975. ISBN 0888620586
  • Mays, James. Ford and Canada: One Hundred Years Together. Montreal: Syam Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0973381205