I. Summary of Facts
Final Offer a documentary film shot and made in Canada is directed by Sturla Gunnarsson and Robert Collison. The film follows the 1984 labor contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) and General Motors. The said negotiation became a heated argument between union leaders and paved the way for the creation and separation of Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) headed Bob White from its American counterparts. Bob White used to head the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) – Canada membership but issues about the way the union was run by the Americans erupted. White got out of the union and formed the CAW.
1. How did Bob White handle the negotiations?
What is the future direction of labor at General Motors?
Should the Canadian branch of the UAW be allowed to pursue its own objectives at the bargaining table?
Bob White, president of the Canadian UAW, got embroiled in a landmark auto strike battle at General Motors. White followed the textbook methods delineated in The Labor Relations Process, 9th Edition by Holley, et al. particularly on the process of arriving at labor agreements, conducting collective bargaining and about labor issues in the international contexts.
This real-life account provide actual examples on the labor relations process. In it, we can glean that handling labor negotiations is no easy task. White exemplifies the laborious and strenuous process behind the negotiations. White together with his advisors have to form strategies to be able to get their message across and to gain the support of the laborers. Not only that, White being the leader of the Canadian labor organization must also cater to the demands of the members.
White’s negotiating methods and tactics vary sometimes drastically from making offers to issuing threats and counter-offers. He underwent an exhausting marathon bargaining session with the management. This scenario, of course, is the essence of collective bargaining.
2. The future direction of labor at General Motors is one of the focal points in the dramatic 1984 contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers (UAW) – Canada branch and General Motors. A routine negotiation somehow turns into an ugly, bitter word-war between Canadian UAW leader Bob White and international president of the union, Owen Beiber. Collective bargaining issues such as healthcare costs containment, pensions, labor productivity and alternative work arrangements are either implicitly or explicitly discussed in the film.
3. Final Offer features one of the toughest labor negotiations in Canadian history not only because it sought to protect the welfare of the workers at General Motors but also because Bob White, President of the Canadian United Auto Workers, has to face its American labor counterparts. Backroom negotiations wer conducted so the Canadian Membership of the U.A.W. would separate from American union. In the process, White formed the Canadian Auto Workers or CAW. The split occurred because UAW Canadian delegates felt incapable of voicing their concerns. Also, the American union was not promoting the interest of the Canadian workers. The split became an important part of history changing the labor movement in Canada. Bob White succeeded in creating a separate union and became the first head of CAW.
In Final Offer, one can get a glimpse of collective bargaining in action. The negotiation process has never been easy. This is particularly true in this scenario because Bob White had to tackle a number of issues simultaneously. The main focus was not only labor agreements but also the situation of the labor union in Canada at the time which was largely dependent on its American counterparts.
The issue on contract negotiations by the labor union was overshadowed by the issues on within the labor union itself. The backroom brawl that erupted between the Canadian and American members of the United Autoworkers Union during the historic 1982 strike at General Motors provided a clear insight on the need for local representation. The tensions between the Canadian and American sectors of the UAW that developed during the talks led to the permanent split of the two unions.
There is no doubt that the American union was successful in representing its American members. The split, however, was a very a good move because it helped highlight the concerns unique to Canadian workers at General Motors.
“Bob White.” Wikipedia.com. Accessed 25 May 2009
“Final Offer.” Film Reference Library. Accessed 25 May 2009
Holley, William; Jennings, Kenneth and Wolters, Roger. The Labor Relations Process, 9th
Edition . South Western College Publishing, 2008.