Unifor Local 444 has given endorsements to three local provincial incumbents, but a University of Windsor political science professor says the backing of labour doesn’t always guarantee a victory.
Liberal incumbent Teresa Piruzza in Windsor West and NDP incumbents Taras Natyshak and Percy Hatfield in Essex and Windsor-Tecumseh, respectively, will be receiving support from the local union. Lydia Miljan, associate political science professor at the University of Windsor, said labour endorsements are only one piece of information voters have.
“Even if you’re a card-carrying union member, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to base your decision solely on what your union leadership has suggested,” she said.
In the 2011 provincial election, both the Windsor & District Labour Council and the CAW endorsed eventual winners Natyshak in Essex and Liberal Dwight Duncan in Windsor-Tecumseh, but chose to support New Democrat Helmi Charif over Piruzza in Windsor West. The Canadian Union of Public Employees endorsed every NDP candidate across Ontario, but just a single New Democrat was elected in the Windsor area.
The Local 444 represents about 10,000 active and 6,000 retired members. President Dino Chiodo said during elections for the past five or six years, he has had many people ask him why they should vote for a certain candidate.
“I think it is important to put our views out there because people believe and know that we do our research and our due diligence with regards to what’s important to the automotive industry, what’s important to the service sector, because we represent them directly,” said Chiodo, who represents the workers at Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant, among other businesses.
Ken Lewenza, the last national president of the CAW before it merged into Unifor last year, said he is also giving his personal endorsement to the three incumbents. He said union recommendations in this region can have an impact as long as people do the necessary work to get the message to local members.
“We shouldn’t confuse anybody. It was always easier to give the NDP a blanket support because that’s our traditional party,” said Lewenza, who was also president of the CAW Local 444 from 1994 to 2008. “I don’t think it happens without work. If we do nothing, it will be shown in the election, simple as that.”
Miljan said by essentially taking an “anything but Conservative” stance, unions send an unclear message about whether they think members should vote for a Liberal or New Democrat candidate.
“It does open up a lot of flexibility on the part of individual voters, so I think that in a sense, their advice is somewhat diluted when they do that and they have that strategy,” said Miljan.
However, Miljan said the 444’s endorsement of Piruzza could help her re-election campaign because she’s in a close race with NDP candidate Lisa Gretzky.
“Any union support that she can get personally probably will help her, considering she has charges of not being able to really deliver for the region,” she said.
Chiodo said the local Unifor will not be supporting a particular party’s platform. He said he is endorsing the incumbents because the two NDP members provide strong opposition voices, while Piruzza can continue to advocate on behalf of this region as a cabinet minister if the Liberals retain their minority government.
Lewenza suggested the Liberals and NDP should find a "unified political agenda" if the Liberals form a minority government.
“It makes no sense that the Liberals and New Democrats in each riding kick the hell out of each other and then the Tories get the seat because we split the vote,” he said. “If you really care about Ontario, you would take your Liberal hat off for a while, you would take your NDP hat off for a while.”