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The Walkerville-Chrysler Connection

Circa 1925 - The Maxwell-Chrysler Company became the Chrysler Corporation of Canada. Production was booming: 181 workers were building 18 cars a day!

The company's roots extend back to 1916, when the Maxwell Motor Company of Canada built a new passenger car plant on Tecumseh Road East. Maxwell was challenged by the Chalmers Motor Company of Canada which also began car production that year.


The two companies merged in the early 1920s under the name of  Maxwell-Chalmers Corporation of Canada and moved car production to Tecumseh. By the time they merged in 1925, Windsor was Canada's largest and most important auto manufacturing centre.

Over the next two years, it became quickly apparent that demand for Chrysler products exceeded plant capacity. In 1927, Chrysler moved back into the area and leased land occupied by the former Fisher Body Company of Canada Ltd. on Edna Street. The new plant in Walkerville was used for the assembly, painting and trimming of passenger car bodies.

The end of the 1920s also saw more expansion for Chrysler. In 1928, the company bought 70 acres of farm land in Walkerville for the passenger car assembly plant that went up that year.

It wasn't long after this that union involvement in the automotive industry took centre stage in the United States. Taking their cue from their counterparts south of the border, auto workers in Canada waged their own bitter disputes with Big Three management. From 1938 to 1942, a large number of Chrysler workers waged a bitter battle for union recognition amidst an atmosphere of police arrests and blackballing.

In 1942, Chrysler workers in Windsor were organized and UAW Local 195 was formed. The new Local included 3,600 workers and secured a wage of 90 cents an hour in their first contract.  Also established in that contract agreement was the grievance procedure, giving employees an avenue to settle any issues with management.

chryco2.jpgBefore the agreement, workers had no recourse when they were subjected to hardships on the job, health hazards, discrimination or abusive treatment.

The next 20 years would bring even more growth for the Local. In support of their Ford counterparts, union members went on strike for 30 days amidst threats of police recriminations, and the provincial government's threat to deploy the military in the Windsor strike. Windsor Mayor Arthur (Art) Reaume, who vehemently opposed and prevented outside interference, averted bloodshed.

Concessions won by the Local 195 over these years included recognition of seniority, vacation pay and medical coverage for its members.

The local, re-organized into UAW Local 444 under Charlie Brooks, was the driving force in pioneering pre-paid drug plans through Green Shield and coverage through S.& A. Windsor Medical and Ontario Hospital Plan.

Despite the ever-looming threat of violence over the years of sit-down work stoppages, it wasn't until 1977 that tragedy struck. Brooks was shot to death in his office by a disgruntled fired Chrysler employee. The Peace Fountain, located in the Detroit River off Coventry Gardens, is a monument to him and his commit-tment to World Peace. The Charles Brooks Labor Community Award recognizing his dedication to the community is also in place.

From the war effort to strikes, Chrysler has seen Windsor through the booms and busts of our city. Today, Local 444 represents workers from sectors other than those rooted in the automotive industry. Casino and fishery workers are now part of their union base. With its offices situated in the hub of Ottawa Street near where Chrysler began, Local 444 continues to be a strong and proud presence in Walkerville.




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