New Unifor Local 444 President Hopes To Be A Voice For Fairness

The newly elected president of Unifor Local 444 is setting out his priorities as he takes the helm of the largest union group in the region.

James Stewart introduced himself to the media today at the Turner Rd. union hall.

Stewart knows it will be a busy role, with 10,000 active members and 7,000 retirees over 40 bargaining units. He sees that opportunity to be a voice for working people.

"To take back some of what we've been attacked over the course of the last 10 years or so by corporations and trade agreements," says Stewart. "To get back to being treated fairly, making sure workers are represented and their needs are represented at the bargaining table and in the workplace."

Stewart says his first item is saving the 300 FCA Transportation Group jobs at the Windsor Assembly Plant.

He hopes to have an answer in the next week or two.

Stewart is closely following the NAFTA talks as well as they proceed because — as he sees it — the deal needs to be re-negotiated. He says the original deal 25 years ago was supposed to bring jobs and reduce poverty in Mexico, which didn't happen.

"It created jobs and took jobs away from us," says Stewart. "I mean in three years we're going to be under 2-million vehicles."

Stewart says he'll be almost constantly in negotiations, with the Caesars contract coming up in the spring of 2018.

The 44-year-old Stewart takes over from Dino Chiodo who stepped down a month ago to be the Auto Director for Unifor nationally.

Stewart was first elected in 2002 from the chassis section of the minivan plant, the same section originally represented by Ken Lewenza.