Abortion debate enters unionized auto plants

At least one anti-abortion supporter is taking the fight to the CAW at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly. Meanwhile, some Ford workers are critical of the union's public pro-choice stance.

The issue has divided several CAW locals in Windsor, Ont.

Local 444 president Dino Chiodo said the union is concentrating on contract negotiations and it's not forcing its pro-choice position on members. (CBC)

At least one person has brought the anti-abortion argument to the CAW's home turf in Windsor, Ont.

Connie Thomson is a registered nurse who belongs to a group opposed to abortion. Instead of standing in front of Windsor Regional Hospital to demonstrate against it, she has been spending time outside Chrysler's nearby Windsor Assembly Plant, where she hands out pamphlets to workers.

"Education is the key," she said. "Many are misinformed about abortion and what it does to children. At a time like this, it's a good learning moment.."

In April, CAW national president Ken Lewenza wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In it, Lewenza outlined the union's pro-choice stance.

Monday, members of CAW Local 444 staged a pro-choice rally outside the hospital. Other union members, who are anti-abortion, countered the rally at the same time from across the street.

Joe Chimienti is a Ford worker in Windsor. He can't understand why the union has entered the abortion debate.

"There are too many other important issues," he said. "Contract issues? Yes. Everything else but this. I totally disagree with that."

Dino Chiodo is president of CAW Local 444, representing nearly 5,000 Chrysler workers in Windsor.

The CAW is to negotiate new collective bargaining agreements with the Detroit 3 this year.

Chiodo said the union is concentrating on contract negotiations and it's not forcing its position on members.

"I'm not telling anybody what to do. I'm not going to pass judgement," he said.

Chiodo also said he personally does not believe in abortion.

Chris Taylor is the president CAW Local 200, which represents Chimienti. Taylor said he believes women should have the choice when it comes to abortion. Taylor said he's been getting calls about this.

"This isn't the first time we've had controversial issues around a CAW policy or a CAW direction. We witnessed this with the gun control, the gun registry," he said. "Some of our members thought we had no business being in there. The reality is these are social issues. They affect our members."