Windsor automotive workers celebrate USMCA after anxiously watching NAFTA negotiations

Automotive employees had an anxious summer that ended with a new deal they like.

Unifor 444 believes the deal is good news for people in Windsor

Workers at the Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant say it's become difficult to job hunt due to COVID-19. (CBC)

People in the city once considered the capital of Canada's automotive industry are celebrating the new USMCA deal, saying it ends an anxious summer spent following NAFTA negotiations. 

"There were some jitters for sure, without question," said Lino LoMedico, a team leader at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant. 

"Today was a new day for sure, it's very positive. We're actually very proud of the job that our Canadian government did and kudos to the negotiator," said LoMedico.

LoMedico has worked at the plant for 26 years and noticed a change in some of his colleagues spending habits while they waited out NAFTA  negotiations. 

Big purchases on hold

"There were several colleagues that were putting off some major purchase just in case, not knowing which way the trade talks were going to go," he said on Tuesday, describing fears of 'job losses, plant closures - production shifting elsewhere.'

One of those colleagues is Nick Dimitriou, who has worked at the plant for 24 years. 

New NAFTA a 'sigh of relief' for autoworkers

4 years ago
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Nick Dimitriou works at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant and spent the last year and half anxiously following NAFTA negotiations.

"There are plans I personally had that I've been holding back on," said Dimitriou, who said his entire life was on hold while this deal was being negotiated. 

"There was a lot of angst. There was a lot of anxiety going on there because it does in a way bring it back to your table."

Relief and security

Dimitriou said that some people in Windsor took negotiations personally. 

"The people have taken this as a little bit of more as if it was almost an attack on the industry, or an attack on Canadians just in general," said Dimitriou, who considers this deal a win for southwestern Ontario. 

Unifor 444 president Dave Cassidy believes part of President Donald Trump's NAFTA negotiations were political moves. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"It was a roller coaster," said David Cassidy, head of Unifor 444, which represents about 6,000 employees at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant. 

"It could have been catastrophic for us," said Cassidy, when asked what impact proposed auto tariffs would have on the region. 

'A lot of political hay'

Cassidy reflected on President Donald Trump's threat of auto tariffs as a political move. 

"When I look back at it I just think this was a lot of political hay for the mid-terms in the United States."

The new agreement will allow Canada to produce 2.8 million vehicles to export without a tariff, which is about a million vehicles more than what the country is producing now, said Cassidy. 

He said he's not worried about the cap being reached but it does allow for possible expansion. 

"If you look at those numbers there's a potential for another four (original equipment manufacturers), full three-shift productions in Canada," said Cassidy. 

"Imagine having a presence of a Ford here in Windsor... could you imagine putting facilities in that we could produce these vehicles?"