Stickin’ to the Union

Local 2224 vs. John Buhler

By Doug Smith  

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Stickin’ to the Union tells the story of the nine-month battle that the workers at Versatile Industries fought with their employer, the eccentric millionaire John Buhler, in the winter of 2001. Buhler, who had just bought the Versatile tractor plant with a $32-million government loan, provoked a strike by demanding a gutting of benefits and seniority provisions in the union contract. The union surprised all by charging Buhler with bargaining in bad faith and won a $6-million dollar labour-board victory.

Doug Smith’s engaging prose highlights both the power of capital and the role solidarity can play in opposing that power.

“Stickin’ to the Union is a fine piece of work about a serious and important chapter in Manitoba labour history. Reading it will make you angry–about John Buhler’s holier-than-thou cowboy capitalist approach. But it is also inspiring to see the solidarity that afforded the Versatile workers a large measure of dignity.”

— Paul Moist, President, Canadian Union of Public Employees

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  • Introduction: “You’re not getting a dime”
  • Versatile Tractors
  • Who Builds Tractors?
  • Building a Local: 1985-2000
  • The Merger and Its Fallout: 1999-2000
  • Negotiations: Summer to Fall 2000
  • The Strike Begins: November to December 2000
  • The Threat of Plant Closure: January to February 2001
  • Cowboy Capitalists and Labour-Friendly Governments: A Long March
  • From Lockout to Severance: April to August 2001
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea


  • Doug Smith

    Doug Smith is a Winnipeg writer and author of numerous books on political and social issues and Manitoba labour and political history: including Stickin’ to the Union: Local 2224 versus John Buhler, As Many Liars: The Story of the 1995 Manitoba Vote-Splitting Scandal, and Joe Zuken: Citizen and Socialist, Consulted To Death: How Canada’s Workplace Health and Safety System Fails Workers and As Many Liars: The Story of the 1995 Manitoba Vote-Rigging Scandal.

    He has written for several magazines and newspapers including This Magazine, Maclean’s and the Winnipeg Sun. He has also worked as producer at CBC radio for documentaries and the CBC Radio program Ideas and worked as an editorial consultant on a number of public inquiries including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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