Activists Confident of Acquittals

The lawyer representing the head of Windsor’s largest CAW local and another

Ken Lewenza. Photo credit: Canadian Metalworking
Ken Lewenza. Photo credit: Canadian Metalworking

union activist accused of violence during a strike-related protest says he expects their case to go to trial.

“I’m hopeful in the end they’ll be exonerated and there will be an indication that they didn’t do anything wrong,” Patrick Ducharme said Wednesday, after CAW Local 444 president Ken Lewenza and former CAW Local 1973 president Nick Dzudz made their first court appearance.

Lewenza and Dzudz are charged with assaulting security guards in the midst of a protest June 18 outside a compound on Division Road in Windsor.

Striking CAW members believed the site was being used as a staging area to transport replacement workers to Navistar’s International Truck and Engine Corp. plant in Chatham. Lewenza is also charged with mischeif for allegedly throwing a piece of concrete at a bus window.

The prosecution is proceeding summarily with the charges against Lewenza and Dzudz. That means they don’t have to appear in court again until the case goes to trial, which their lawyer expects in six to seven months. The case is back in Aug. 14 to set a date.

The maximum penalty for a summary conviction is six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

‘Absolutely no doubt’

“I have absolutely no doubt that I will be exonerated of the charges,” said Lewenza, 48.

“I’m very, very comfortable with what took place on Division Road. I’m very uncomfortable with going through court.”

Calling the court experience “intimidating,” the fiery leader of the CAW local that represents DaimlerChrysler and Casino Windsor workers said he and Dzudz, 51, were singled out because they are well-known in the community.

“It’s totally unnecessary to go through all of this,” said Dzudz, a long-time CAW activist who retired this month after 31 years with General Motors.

“We tried to help somebody out and have a peaceful demonstration and somebody comes through and says stuff like this.”

Lewenza blamed provincial legislation that allows companies to hire replacement workers for igniting volatile confrontations with security officers hired by the company during the International Truck plant site.

The bitter six-week strike by more than 600 CAW Local 127 members ended earlier this month, but it could be a long time before the fallout settles, Lewenza said.

He said he considers the charges against him minor compared to the injuries suffered by CAW member Don Milner, who was hit by a van as he and others tried to intercept a bus of replacement workers in Chatham.