GM union runs Super Bowl ad, despite legal threats

Unifor, the union representing GM workers in Canada, ran an ad in Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast on CTV, despite threats of legal action by the automaker.

The union has been running an escalating advertising and PR campaign against GM since the automaker announced it was closing its manufacturing plant in Oshawa, Ont. late last year. Early last month, the union released an ad that seemed to directly challenge a large TV ad campaign being run by GM that celebrates Canadian values.

The new ad, which ran during the second quarter of the game—and has been online for more than a week—also celebrates Canadian values, before reminding viewers that despite receiving a government bailout following the 2008 financial crisis, the automaker is expanding production in Mexico. “A move as un-Canadian as the vehicles they now want to sell us,” says the narrator, before closing with the line: “If you want to sell here, build here.”

The union issued a press release Sunday revealing it had received a letter threatening legal action if Unifor did not remove all copies of the ad from “publicly accessible media (including YouTube and any internet or social media account).”

“Clearly General Motors doesn’t want Canadians to see this ad. To see its actions and the damage that GM plans to inflict on workers, communities and our national economy if it closes Oshawa,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias in the release.

“The commercial points out that Canadians have been loyal to GM and now the company is leaving us out in the cold,” said Dias. “We stand by the belief that if GM wants to sell here then it needs to build here and we will not be intimidated from sharing that message with Canadians in this ad.”

The letter, sent by Gowling WLG on behalf of General Motors of Canada, says the ad makes several statements that are “knowingly false and misleading.” Among them, it says, is the claim that the Canadian government “gave” GM $10.8 billion and that it has demonstrated contemptible “greed.”

“These statements are not only false but are designed intentionally and maliciously to mislead Canadian consumers and forever tarnish GM’s reputation with them,” the letter states. The letter acknowledges that a loan was made “many years ago,” (it was 2009) but states that it was repaid in the form of cash and equity shares.

– David Brown

David Brown