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Unifor looking to have Oshawa street named after national president

Unifor is looking to recognize its national president with a street naming in Oshawa.

In a letter to council, which came to the development services committee on Sept. 13, Unifor National Staff Representative Terry Farrell writes that the street naming project would be in recognition of Unifor National President Jerry Dias’ efforts to secure the reopening of the General Motors plant in the city.

“Since General Motors announced it would close the Oshawa assembly line in late 2018, Jerry had made it his personal mission to reverse that decision by any means necessary,” writes Farrell.

He says this was “no small dispute” between workers and their union on one side and a company on the other.

“There was no obvious winning strategy, and the odds were stacked heavily against the union, its members, and the city,” the letter continues.

Farrell says what GM and many other commentators underestimated was how committed Dias was to reversing this decision.

“This fight was personal.” Says Farrell, as the Dias family has deep roots in Oshawa.

His father, Jerry Dias Sr., is a long-time resident and several of Dias’ close family members, friends, and loved ones call Oshawa home and worked at the plant.

Farrell says few outside the union could have predicted Dias’ efforts would pay off and result in reopening the plant.

The settlement negotiated in 2019 to maintain the integrity of the plant and its stamping operations saved the plant.

“It was the key piece of Jerry’s strategy,” the letter continues, noting getting there was a “substantial undertaking.”

“It meant pulling out all the stops, mobilizing the public, pressuring politicians, bringing out celebrities, holding rallies, and launching the union’s most ambitious public awareness and boycott campaigns in its history,” writes Farrell.

He says the $1.3 billion deal to reopen Oshawa means the city, the region and its workers, particularly younger workers, have a “bright future.”

“Jerry’s unwavering commitment to reopening GM Oshawa was an invaluable community service and notable historic achievement worthy of commemoration.”

The development services committee referred the item back to staff for a report.