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Toyota workers loaded tables with Unifor T-shirts and materials, handing them out to co-workers and talking about their campaign to join Unifor, Canada’s newest union, during a rally today at the company’s Cambridge plant gates.

“I have a seen a change in the company,” said one 15-year veteran  on his way in to work. ” Toyota used to care about its workers, but in the last six years there has been a lot of negativity.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. They are leading the industry in profit, quality and productivity. It is hard to take.”

Even with record profits and productivity, the company is still talking about a crisis in the automotive industry and the need for cutbacks, workers said as they headed into the plant.

“It’s terrible now,” said one trades person who has been at Toyota 11 years. “At first, I did not think we needed a union. I was in a union shop before working here, and I was open to the Toyota way. But I have seen the way people are treated here, and it appalls me.”

A wage freeze that’s been going on for several years, benefit cuts and a recent announcement to deny the defined benefit pension to new hires have been identified by Toyota workers as among their top concerns.

But workers handing out T-shirts and spreading the word about Unifor among their coworkers on the plant site is new, and shows momentum is building, Unifor organizer Bob Van Cleef said.

“These workers are taking this campaign and owning it. We are just here to support their campaign to have a better say in their workplace.”

Earlier in the day, Unifor members greeted workers at each of the five plant gates, talking to them and handing out information about Unifor as they went to work.

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“This is a turning point,” said Van Cleef. “The workers are taking a more courageous stance and making the campaign their own. They feel the momentum building and they are eager to push it over the edge.”