Buzz Hargrove timeline

Buzz Hargrove timeline

Buzz Hargrove was born Basil Eldon Hargrove in Bath, N.B., in 1944. He grew up in an impoverished family, the sixth of 10 children.

Canadian Auto Workers President Buzz Hargrove during GM talks in June 2008. ((Dave Chidley/Canadian Press))

When Hargrove was a teenager, his mother left the family, taking only the baby. By Grade 10, Hargrove had dropped out of school and left home, anxious to get on with life. 

After years of drifting from job to job, he wound up on the line in the Chrysler plant in Windsor, Ont., with his older brother Carl.

Hargrove quickly became involved in the labour movement as a member of the Canadian branch of the United Auto Workers. A strong advocate of never making contract concessions — a position that sometimes differentiated Canadian auto workers from their American counterparts — Hargrove also saw himself as a social activist who would use his labour position to advocate social causes and solutions to problems.

In 1985, Bob White, then Canadian director of the UAW, led a rebellion against the union's American leaders and broke away to form a new union, the Canadian Auto Workers. In 1992, Hargrove took over the leadership of the CAW from White who had been his mentor.

Spring 1993

In one of his first tests as national leader of the CAW, Hargrove is forced to confront then NDP premier Bob Rae in Ontario as he struggled to contain a growing recession in Canada's largest province. Rae had introduced what he called the Social Contract, an attempt to force unpaid leave on provincial civil servants, in order to balance his budget. The move split the union movement and Hargrove, whose union had always been staunch NDP supporters until that point, sided with the public sector unions against Rae.

June 1999

With the Conservative Mike Harris government in power in Ontario and going to the polls, Hargrove made his first public foray into the field of strategic or tactical voting. Until then, the CAW and its predecessor had always been a staunch political and financial supporter of the NDP. But in the 1999 Ontario election, Hargrove urged his supporters to vote for whatever candidate, Liberal or NDP, would have the best chance of defeating the Conservative.

As a tactic, it didn't work. The Conservatives were re-elected with a second majority. It was also the first time the CAW did not formally endorse the NDP in an election and contributed to increasingly bitter relations between the party and the union.

Nov. 1, 1999

Hargrove announces that the Canadian Auto Workers union will endorse the Onex takeover and restructuring bid for Air Canada and Canadian Airlines. The union represented 10,000 workers at both airlines and many Air Canada workers saw the endorsement as a betrayal. The Onex bid by financier Gerry Schwartz would fall apart four days later.

Sept. 17, 2002

The CAW and GM Canada reach a deal on a contract five hours before the union's strike deadline in what is seen as a win for both sides. As part of the deal, GM vows to add production and sophisticated equipment to its Oshawa assembly line.

May 20, 2004

The CAW and Air Canada reach a cost-cutting deal aimed at keeping the airline solvent. The day-long negotiations took place after a judge ordered discussions between the parties to continue. Talks between the airline and the union had broken down after 16 days of talks.

Dec. 2, 2005

In another foray into the area of tactical voting, Hargrove urges members of the CAW to vote Liberal in the 2006 federal election in ridings in which the NDP has no chance of winning. "We're saying to people don't waste your vote. Make sure we don't send any more Tories to Ottawa. We don't need them." Appearing at one point with then Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, Hargrove added that the minority Liberal government "deserves to go back to Ottawa with even bigger numbers."

Jan. 18, 2006

After a campaign speech by Liberal Leader Paul Martin, Hargrove says having a strong Bloc Québécois caucus in opposition would be better for national unity than a Conservative caucus in power. He adds that Stephen Harper's "view of the country is a separatist view."

Feb. 12, 2006

The executive of the New Democratic Party's Ontario wing votes to revoke Hargrove's party membership after he endorses certain Liberal candidates in the federal election.

April 24, 2006

The Canadian Auto Workers council votes to break ties with the New Democratic Party, following a decision by the party's Ontario wing in February to revoke Hargrove's membership.

May 15, 2008

Hargrove announces tentative contract deals between the CAW and General Motors and Chrysler.

June 3, 2008

General Motors announces the 2009 closure of a truck plant in Oshawa, Ont., that would put 2,600 people out of work. Hargrove says the closure violates the contract agreement reached only weeks before. "We are not going to allow this to happen," he says.

June 16, 2008

A 12-day CAW blockade at the headquarters of General Motors of Canada in Oshawa, Ont., breaks up after a judge issues a court order to end it.

June 17, 2008

After a meeting with General Motors officials, Hargrove says he would be "very surprised" if the company changed its mind about closing its Oshawa truck plant.

July 8, 2008

The Canadian Auto Workers announces that Hargrove will step down as head of the union following a convention in September 2008, six months before his 65th birthday.