OTD: St. Thomas Ford plant workers begin strike

On today’s date in 1968, thousands of employees of the Ford Motor Company of Canada began a weeklong strike at a plant in St. Thomas, Ont.

The plant was responsible for building the Ford Falcon since opening its doors only a year earlier (although the Maverick, Pinto and Fairmont were produced in the decade that followed).

“Members of Local 1520, United Auto Workers Union, milled around the front gate of the St. Thomas Ford Assembly Plant this morning after walking off their jobs,” reported the St. Thomas Times-Journal.

“The strike began shortly after 7 a.m. when about 200 men from the body build section of the assembly line left work. Ford employees from Oakville and Windsor have also walked out in an apparent protest against the union’s move to change the strike deadline from today until next Monday. A union representative asked the St. Thomas strikers to return to work tomorrow morning. Production at the St. Thomas plant has been shut down for the day.”

The St. Thomas strike – part of a series of walkouts at Ford facilities across Ontario, including in Oakville, Windsor, Niagara and Brampton – was focused on implementing voluntary overtime over compulsory overtime and protecting workers against layoffs.

The strike lasted seven days before union head George Burt notified Ford’s senior management via telegram his workers had voted overwhelmingly to accept a new three-year contract.

“We will aggressively seek out methods for preserving a viability in this new environment,” Ford president Karl Scott said at the time, adding the situation would be “either a milestone or a millstone for the company.”

The plant eventually closed in 2011, with more than eight million vehicles produced at the facility since 1967. It was mostly demolished by the end of 2016.

1993 MODEL T STAMP

In 1993, Canada Post featured Ford’s famous Model T – the first of which was built in Detroit, Mich. – on a 49-cent stamp (Scott #1490) as part of its “Historic Land Vehicles 1” series.

Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company on Coated Papers Limited paper, the stamp depicts an illustration of the Model T beneath the word “CANADA” and above the words “FORD MODEL T / OPEN TOURING CAR / MODELE T DE FORD / VOITURE DECAPOTABLE.”

The Model T’s release date, 1914, is inscribed to the right.

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