Its been 17yrs now, going to the same place Monday to Friday every week, its called Lear. As the final weeks of production fell upon us, we look back on the days gone by. April 25, 1994 my first day of work at Lear. Walked into what was then the Lions Hall on Highbury ave for training with Tony Suttle. After a couple of days there it was off to the plant across the street. Once inside there were build up areas. One area to train you on how to build the front seat cushion, another for the front back and the final area for rear seats. Every seat built was blue vinyl. We built up ten sets then had to tear them down, then build them back up and tear them down. What fun it was. As they slowly pulled us out of the training areas into production cells and areas the isles started fill with the first seats of Lear St. Thomas. the years went on and more and more workers were coming into work. the plant was filling up with both seats and workers. We were getting ready for the launch of the 1995 year. The atmosphere in the plant was a pleasant one, workers laughing and having fun while building seats. It soon became like a family. We would go out on Thursdays and Fridays for a cold drink together, workers, supervisors and some managers.
Into the late 1990’s we hit the 10hr shifts. Come to work in the dark and go home in the dark. What a long hard 3 1/2yrs of 10hr shifts. Some days you would be just getting done work at 5am and the other shift would be walking in as you were walking out. Those days are behind us now. 2000’s hit and so did the slow down. Back to 8hr shifts and lay offs. A week here and a week there for starts. 2005 hits and we are seeing the slow down hit harder. A week a month of layoffs. the economic down turn hits and now we are down to a single shift. Half the plant is on lay off with no real date of ever coming back. A year passes and we find ourselves in midst of a month off here and 2 weeks there, before the year is out we’ve had over 12 weeks of lay offs. OUCH! The lay offs are starting to hit the finances hard. Worker unsure of what the future is going hold. As the economic down turn hits several other factories around we start to see what the effects are a head. Plants starting to close their doors forever. Moving the work to the south or overseas. Workers at Lear start to wonder if we are next. the news hits and the announcement comes out Ford Talbotville to close in the third quarter of 2011. Disbelief hits and we all start not wanting to believe they a re really closing. We question if Lear will find other work for us, will they keep the plant open, what will we do? The many questions ones has when you find out your plant is closing due to its customer closing its doors.
As 2010 is ending we have our plant closure agreement ratified. Its a good package for the amount of time we all have worked at Lear. Yes there a small few who will argue that it should have been way more. Some will say the company owes them. I look back at what the company has done for me. I wonder what my life would of been like if I hadn’t been hired at Lear making the monies I did. I will say and have said “thank you” to Lear. Yes that’s right Thank you. Thank you for hiring me. providing me with a living wage that has allowed me to afford a comfortable living. Thank you for my benefits, thank you for my hourly wage so I could buy a car, a house and provide for my family. Thank you Lear for allowing to work and go to school to further my education. Thank you for time off to attend education put on by the CAW and Labour College of Canada. We may have had our differences through the years but they got settled. A question was asked of me from a reporter about the atmosphere in the plant. I had to say it was quiet but low key. What some have to realize is the workers in the plant all came in around the same time. We’ve all worked with each other for 17yrs. Its like a big family, families have their spats and arguments. We had them too, we pushed through them and moved on.
As I sit here writing this I reflect upon the fun days we had, the bad days and the in between days. the up and downs and I believe it all made us a better person. Its the people around us at work who help make us who we are. When you spend more time with the person at work than you do your own family at home, they then become apart of you and your life, no matter if you want them to or not.
I have no regrets, no hate, for what has happen. I look to it as a learning lesson in life, a step in life. Its the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. I won’t lie to you and tell you I am not sadden by it, because I am. I have the fear in the back of my mind of the “what ifs”, and this scare the hell out of me. I stay strong for my family, my friends and my co-workers.
I look back upon what I am walking away with when the door closes behind for the final time. I have a Labour Education, a sound knowledge of unions, the experiences and knowledge that comes with being a President, a Committee Person, a worker on the floor.
Thank you to the CAW for the education you have provided, the hands on experience and for helping to attainable a living standard for us.
Thank you Lear St. Thomas, thank you everyone who came into my life over the past 17yrs, and thank you to those who inspired me and motivated me to become a part of something I can’t words to not because I can’t find them, my eyes of full of tears. On that note I leave you –
Thank you. May you all be able to write your next chapter in life and happy one.
Take Care and Good Luck
Lear Seating St. Thomas