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Over 1,200 office workers line up across the street from their offices. They were kept from their jobs by picketers; few attempted to enter the building.
Courtesy of The Art Gallery of Windsor

George Burt described the blockade as a Miller Road because of its similarity to a previous action by the UAW at the River Rouge plant in Detroit. Eventually, the cars jammed Sandwich Street and up Drouillard for blocks around the plants. As one picketer suggested, it was a Model ‘T’ that Ford would not like. The famous blockade was known as the largest traffic jam in Windsor history!

The barricade ultimately worked. Police made no move against the strikers and the Ford plant remained closed. The strike continued. The Windsor Star called the blockade an insurrection with the mob in control and demanded that the police be used. The City of Windsor also called for order to be restored in a heated debate. Eventually, council gave the union an ultimatum: remove the barricade or the police would be called in.

Reluctantly, the rank and file agreed, if only to allow talks to resume. There was some grumbling from the men who were afraid that it would show weakness, but the barricade came down on Wednesday, November Seventh.

All day, cars were returned to their rightful owners. More than a hundred insurance claims were filed, but only half were processed. They covered theft of tires, radiators, hub and gas caps and damage to paint and fenders. But most vehicles were returned in good repair, thanks to union members who kept damage to a minimum.

As a result of the barricade, meetings were held between government, union and company negotiators over the next three weeks. Progress was slow and, just when a settlement seemed imminent, all hope was dashed. A settlement was alternately helped and then hampered, by representatives of the federal and provincial governments who couldn’t agree on a solution. There was a Liberal government in Ottawa and a Conservative government in Ontario and they just didn’t see eye-to-eye.

Eventually, union leaders agreed to binding arbitration and held a vote of the membership to end the strike and go back to work while an agreement was worked out. There was no fanfare and no real sense of victory. The strike just ended on Wednesday, December 19th. The workers returned to their posts in the hope that Justice Ivan C. R. and would negotiate a settlement to end the bitter dispute. The membership was entirely at his mercy.

From humble beginnings to industrial giant: The Walkerville Wagon Works (top) became Ford Motor Company in 1904. The East Windsor Ford site dominated the riverfront by 1934

And, fortunately, they were not disappointed.

Rand recognized that there had to be a give and take between the union and company. He criticized both equally for their attitudes during the strike and established acceptable methods of behaviour for both the union and company. His agreement became known as the Rand Formula and represented a partial victory for the union.

Rand didn’t give the union everything it wanted. He refused to allow a closed shop where every worker had to join the union. He figured that would restrict the rights of the company to hire whomever it saw fit. And, it restricted the rights of the worker. But, Rand did make it compulsory for every worker to pay dues, since every worker benefited from union activities. He required the company to collect these dues, and his decision was seen as making a big step toward union security. The union figured that most people would join the union anyway, since they were paying into it, and the agreement set the pace for union negotiations over the next 30 years. Essentially, it also established acceptable practices on the picket line.

In its day, the Rand Formula helped organized labour achieve the secure economic legal status for which it fought so fiercely since the beginning of the century. And, in that respect, militant unionism triumphed. It provided recognition by Ford that the union was there to stay. It allowed other companies to fight for similar consideration.

The Rand Formula’s impact is still being felt. It was the outcome of the most important postwar strike in Canada, the crowning glory of a tumultuous time for Ford workers in Windsor.

Editor’s Note: 99-Days: The Ford Strike In Windsor, 1945
is available for $20.00 from the author, Herb Colling.
Write P.O. Box 1377, Belle River, Ontario, N0R 1A0

Special thanks to the Ford City Discovery Centre for providing archival photos.

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