August 24, 2012
Volume 42, No. 29
New Union Project Inspires CAW Delegates, Passes UnanimouslyDelegates to the CAW's First Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention have unanimously voted in favour of moving ahead with a new union that will join together with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union.
Prior to the vote, CAW President Ken Lewenza provided an emotional, inspiring address urging delegates to support the report of the Proposal Committee, which recommends the formation of a new union, outlines its structures, finances, dues, goals and principles.
The Proposal Committee's report must now be voted on by delegates to the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union's national convention October 14 to 17 in Quebec City.
More than 40 speakers rose to the microphones at the convention August 22 expressing excitement, energy and overwhelming support for the new union proposal.
Lewenza said the new union will be open, accessible, transparent, and based on principles of justice, equity and fairness for all workers.
"It's about us saying to ourselves how do we best represent our members?" Lewenza asked. "I've never been more excited and I've never been more inspired."
CEP President Dave Coles said the labour movement is under attack and under threat from increasingly emboldened corporations and right wing governments.
"We need collectively to now lead by example," said Coles, who reminded delegates that if both conventions support the proposal a new union will be created with 305,000 members.
Coles said both unions have much in common including backgrounds rooted in Canada, strong democratic traditions as well as long and gloriously militant histories forged on behalf of working people from coast to coast.
CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy said that neither CAW nor CEP was forced into joining forces in a new union. Instead the two unions entered into the process of forming a new union because it would best serve the members and push back against right wing governments and growing attacks on all workers by corporate CEOs.
"This is an act of hope, this is an act of pride, this is an act of idealism," said Kennedy. "We are imagining what this new union can be and we are imagining nothing but greatness," said Kennedy. He said the proposal for a new union will go beyond the old structural boundaries and work hard to include new forms of membership for students, the
unemployed, contract workers and precarious workers.
CEP Secretary-Treasurer Gaétan Ménard told delegates that the proposal committee crossed the country over the last eight months working together to create a new vision for the labour movement of the future.
"We are proposing a very democratic union with deep roots in our communities," said Menard. He stressed that the new union would be an organization that is unique and something new, which is activist based, open and the biggest private sector union in the country.
Take Up Challenge of Building Better World, Lewenza Urges
CAW President Ken Lewenza addresses the CAW convention.
In his fiery opening speech to convention delegates and guests, CAW President Ken Lewenza lamented the constant attack on workers' wages and benefits in Canada and encouraged progressives to put forward new, alternative ideas that challenge growing insecurity, inequality and injustice in Canada and around the world.
"Everyday I wake up on the wrong side of capitalism. And everyday I wake up knowing there are more people with me," Lewenza said. "Enough of us are waking up to fight back."
Lewenza's speech set the tone for the union's Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention, held at Toronto's Sheraton Centre Hotel.
The convention theme is "A Better World is Possible", something Lewenza said should be read as a call to action for working people across Canada.
"I believe we are in the early days of a popular movement that will redefine our country, and the same is true for countries around the world," Lewenza said.
Lewenza noted the challenges Canadian workers face three-years removed from the global economic crisis, with new jobs more insecure and precarious. Lewenza also reflected on the specific challenges the union faces heading into a critical round of bargaining with the Detroit Three automakers in the coming weeks.
"We need to work out a way of sharing in the success which all three companies have enjoyed since the dramatic events caused by the financial crisis."
Lewenza said he has been encouraged by actions taken by the Occupy movement in 2011, students in Quebec, as well as Canadian doctors and scientists speaking out against the Harper government's austerity agenda.
Lewenza said it's time for Canadians to consider radical economic reforms that break from the status quo in order to help protect good quality jobs and rebuild Canada's faltering industrial base.
"We need to establish a publicly-owned national development bank to direct spending toward real investments in key sectors and regions. We need to tame the uncontrolled power of private banks to control the flow of credit and set interest rates. And we need to assert public control over the financial sector," Lewenza said to loud applause.
Union Pushes for New Responses to Anti-Worker Agenda
CAW Secretary Treasurer Peter Kennedy addresses the CAW convention.
CAW National Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy reminded delegates about the continuing challenges facing the labour movement in Canada and around the globe.
Since the last CAW convention and the election of CAW President Ken Lewenza, the global economic meltdown has meant storm clouds over the entire economy and especially tough times in the manufacturing sector.
He outlined the many challenges and the response of the union in fighting back against three decades of the neo-liberal, anti-worker agenda. In the last decade alone more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. Since the last convention three years ago and the culmination of that agenda, GM and Chrysler have gone through a major restructuring and there were 110 workplace closures and 11,000 members' jobs have been lost at CAW workplaces alone, he said.
As a result the CAW and the entire labour movement have looked at new ways of representing the interests of working people. A key event at the CAW's 1st Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention is the writing of a new chapter in union renewal through the proposal for a new union made up of CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP).
CAW delegates unanimously voted in favour of the new union on August 22.
Kennedy also blasted the Harper government for its increasingly hostile attacks on the labour movement, unions and working people.
Government interference in collective bargaining at Canada Post, Air Canada, CP Rail, the introduction of Bill C-377 on union finances, as well as several Conservative provincial parties pushing US-style "right to work" legislation to limit unions, show the
Conservatives and business interests know that unions are the counter balance to unfettered capitalism, he said.
"But we're not gone - and we're not going away" Kennedy said. "This week we will show we have plenty of fight left," he vowed.
Bank Governor Urges Stronger Private Financial Regulation
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney addresses the CAW convention, a first appearance at a union event.
In a historic address to the CAW convention on August 22, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney spoke of international efforts to tighten controls over private sector banking to stabilize financial markets and prevent another global recession.
"The financial crisis and ensuing global recession demonstrated the fundamental interconnectedness of the global economy," Carney said. "When built on bedrock, interconnections of trade and investment create jobs and prosperity. When built on sand, as was the case for too much of financial activity pre-Lehman, the global economy can transmit instability, uncertainty and unemployment."
Carney acknowledged that workers, globally, bore the brunt of the financial crisis. He emphasized the relative stability of Canada's post-crisis labour market, but noted there are lingering challenges.
"The participation rate has not fully recovered and the percentage of involuntary part-time workers has risen about 5 percentage points," said Carney, adding that wage growth is expected to remain moderate. In response to a floor question, Carney later acknowledged that the broad level of underutilization in the labour market was around 11 percent of the labour force.
Carney said that shifts in the global supply and demand for labour have contributed to rising income inequality in Canada. He noted that the share of income going to the top 1 per cent in Canada is now the third-highest among OECD nations.
"Labour's share of national income is now at its lowest level in half a century across most advanced economies, including Canada," Carney said.
Carney also discussed the decline of Canadian export performance since 2000. He acknowledged that the sustained high level of the Canadian dollar has contributed to Canada's falling share of global exports, but also highlighted underlying structural issues (such as Canada's small market share in faster-growing emerging economies).
During an open question period, CAW Local 222 President and Chair of the CAW-General Motors Master Bargaining Committee Chris Buckley offered his first-hand experience when dealing with corporations who have closed up factories and moved new investment overseas, many specifically invoking the dollar's high value.
"The dollar makes us look more expensive than we are."
Carney's speech marked the first time a Bank of Canada Governor has addressed a union convention. Carney also heads the international Financial Stability Board, an international board that promotes the implementation of effective regulatory, supervisory, and other financial sector policies.
AIDS Pandemic Can Be Stopped, Stephen Lewis says
Stephen Lewis, Co-Director AIDS-Free World addresses CAW delegates on August 21.
In a fiery and moving address to the CAW Convention, iconic human rights activist Stephen Lewis said that the AIDS pandemic has not yet been stopped because of mass government complacency, inaction and disinterest.
Lewis charged governments right around the world with being a barrier to ending the AIDS pandemic and dismissed excuses around the financial crisis when it comes to AIDS funding. "There is no financial crisis when we're fighting a war in Iraq or Afghanistan," said Lewis. "There is no financial crisis when it comes to bailing out the banks."
He reserved particularly biting criticism for the Canadian federal government, who voted against a NDP motion which would allow for low cost anti-retroviral generic drugs to be produced and used in the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission in developing countries. "When a government prioritizes the balance sheets of drug corporations over the lives of children, they have lost the authority to govern," said Lewis, about the federal Conservative government.
Lewis charged that governments appear to now be more interested in a public relations exercise rather than seeing results on the issue of AIDS transmission and treatment, often trumpeting only small successes opposed to taking major action. Without treatment, 80 per cent of children who are born with HIV/AIDS die before the age of five.
"Sure you can say progress has been made, how could it not be made? It's been more than 30 years (since the discovery of HIV/AIDS)."
Lewis said that the global AIDS pandemic has a female face, with the number of young women contracting AIDS each year far outpacing the number of men.
"AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age," said Lewis. With a clear strategy around effective treatment and blocking transmission, there is absolutely no reason that governments should not be acting, said Lewis.
Lewis thanked the CAW for its support of his foundation, The Stephen Lewis Foundation, over the years and the newer advocacy organization that Lewis co-founded, AIDS-Free World.
In addressing delegates, Lewis said that his own views and convictions were forged along the lines of trade union solidarity and that trade unions continue to be crucial to the democratic left in Canada, including the New Democratic Party.
A copy of the Stephen Lewis speech will be sent out to all local unions in the coming weeks.
For more information on AIDS-Free World, please visit: http://www.aidsfreeworld.org.
Feds Must Reveal Budget Impacts, Parliamentary Budget Officer says
Kevin Page, Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada tells Convention delegates that he grew up in a union household.
Kevin Page, Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer, wants the Harper government to fully outline its projections on how billions in program cuts will impact Canadians in the coming years, a request that has so far fallen on deaf ears.
Page told CAW convention delegates on August 21 that in the wake of the Conservative government decision to freeze national program spending for five years, there was no information provided to Members of Parliament on projected impacts and possible remedies. This undercuts accountability measures expected of the government from opposition party members and from the Canadian public at large.
In June, a legal opinion sought out by the Parliamentary Budget Office found that the government's refusal to release full details is a breach of the Parliament of Canada Act.
Page said he is willing to take this matter to federal court, if need be - a pledge met by a round of applause from the convention floor.
In a series of PowerPoint charts and graphs, Page revealed government budgetary revenues at record lows, that program expenditures have dropped substantially over the past decade and that an estimated 100,000 jobs are on the chopping block as a result of austerity measures.
"There is a cost to austerity," said Page, who oversees Canada's Parliamentary Budget Office mandated to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation's finances, the government's estimates and trends in the Canadian economy.
Page also refuted the Harper government's claim that extending the age threshold to receive Old Age Security benefits to 67, and refusing to improve benefits under the Canada Pension Plan, is necessary to meet the challenges of Canada's aging population.
"The feds couldn't say they didn't see this coming," Page said, emphasizing the budgetary sustainability of government finances currently. He stressed that the demographic challenges are fully manageable.
Canadians Are Better Off in Unions, CLC President says
Every Canadian must first appreciate and then also share in the broad range of advantages that unions create for organized workers and their families, Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti said.
"Canadians shouldn't fear unions, but should aspire to a union job," Georgetti told CAW convention delegates on August 21.
He outlined several key facts supporting the union advantage:
. unionized workers make $5.11 per hour more on average than non-union workers;
. unionized women make $8 per hour more an hour on average than non-unionized women;
. unionized workers taken together across Canada earn $793 million more every week than if they weren't unionized. This is money which is spent in local communities supporting small businesses and community development and in general a stronger middle class.
Georgetti urged convention delegates to work hard in spreading the good news about the union advantage. He stressed that the union advantage message is more important than ever given the Harper Conservatives, right-wing provincial governments and corporate CEOs' aggressive anti-union and anti-worker agendas.
Georgetti applauded the CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers' union (CEP) for exploring the possibility of joining together to create Canada's largest private sector union.
"It's exciting, it's ambitious and it's complicated for sure," said Georgetti. He praised the leadership of the two unions for the vision of the need for a larger, more powerful and far reaching new union.
System Not Broken, This is Capitalism; CEP President
CEP President Dave Coles delivered his speech to convention delegates in the morning of August 22, prior to the debate and vote on the New Union Project proposal.
In the face of mounting job losses, poverty, community hardship and economic uncertainty in Canada, CEP President Dave Coles told convention delegates this is not a product of a broken system of global capitalism; it is capitalism.
Coles said that it has been the neo-liberal economic policies of free trade, labour market deregulation, corporate tax cuts and privatization that gained traction among governments in the 1970s that have created income disparity and suppressed worker rights. It's those policies at the root of the global financial crisis of 2008.
"Some said (the 2008 financial crisis) will be the end of capitalism as we know it," Coles said. "But capitalism continues to renew itself, and has come back with a vengeance."
Coles likened the neo-liberal economic policies of the Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney governments of the 1980s with the Harper government today, which has mounted an attack on important social programs like employment insurance and public pensions.
Coles called the federal government's current economic agenda a "sinister attack on regulations" citing irresponsible cuts to Canadian marketing boards, environmental programs as well as massive tax giveaways to corporations.
Coles said the union movement responded to this shift in government policy-making like a "deer caught in the headlights." He said that is what makes the New Union Project proposal so critical in forging a stronger voice for workers to challenge this dominant agenda.
"The New Union Project can bring us together, as a united force," Coles said. "It gives us hope. It can give us power. The time is ours."
CUPE President Calls for Unity Among Progressives
CUPE National President Paul Moist had a stern warning for both private and public sector employers: "pursue the demise of working people at your own peril."
Moist said that workers, regardless of their union colours, are motivated to work together to defend the interests of the working class across the country, against increasing inequality and attacks from employers. "We won't back down during a fight in any corner of the country," said Moist to a round of loud applause.
His message extended to the Detroit Three auto companies of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, whom he urged "quit whining and understand how lucky" they are to be able to manufacture in Canada, with a quality workforce and a universally accessible health care system.
"It doesn't matter what union workers belong to, in the public or private sector, they are being attacked," said Moist.
Moist said that if workers band together with other progressives across the country, they will ultimately be successful in stopping anti-worker agendas and removing anti-worker politicians from office. If this happens, Moist said that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will be but a distant bad dream and CUPE members will be back on the job in the city, instead of more privatized services.
Moist urged a rainbow coalition of Canadians to counter the plans of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling on the more than 60 per cent of Canadian voters who did not vote for the Conservative Party, the unemployed, and the disenfranchised to work together.
"Stephen Harper is the one that needs to feel the impact of the unemployment line in 2015. This needs to be the goal of every union in Canada."
LeadNow's Julia Pope Urges Pro-Democracy Movement
A pro-democracy movement is taking hold in Canada and it's happening in opposition to the Harper government's closed, anti-democratic actions and policies, LeadNow's Julia Pope told the CAW Convention on August 23. She called it an event of alchemy, producing an unexpected result from an unlikely circumstance.
Pope is the strategic campaigns and communications director for LeadNow, a web community-based national organization with the objective of improving society by deepening democracy, advancing social justice, extending economic opportunity and protecting the planet. LeadNow was formed prior to the May 2011 federal election and now has 150,000 members, and continues to grow.
Canadians want something different from their government, but they have lost trust in our institutions and those who run them. "Canadians no longer trust institutions to act in their best interest," said Pope. She said for many, decisions are being made by people they don't know, in rooms that are closed to them.
LeadNow has been working to build social cohesion through multi-platform campaigns, have attracted tens of thousands to events and forums and online actions.
LeadNow campaigns are designed to maximize a sense of solidarity. "We've found that Canadians are hungry for this experience," said Pope. She said that in her experience, and that of her organization, millions of people are ready to be part of a new Canadian community - one that addresses climate change, rising inequality and a fractured social contract.
Recent successes have come around the federal crime omnibus bill and then the budgetary bill, which saw more than 100 locally-organized rallies across the country, for each campaign. It is this kind of energy that Pope believes is building the foundation for a non-partisan, pro-democracy movement. "We will win by becoming more collaborative and open, not more closed and hierarchical."
For more information on LeadNow, please visit: http://www.leadnow.ca/ In French: http://www.leadnow.ca/fr/index
Convention Delegates Elect CAW Leadership Team
CAW National President Ken Lewenza has been acclaimed president of the union at the CAW's 1st Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention.
Lewenza accepted his re-election in an inspirational speech outlining the importance of the CAW throughout not only his life but also that of his extended family.
Lewenza said principles of equity, fairness, transparency and inclusiveness for all workers that have always guided the CAW will be the same principles that apply in the proposed new union.
"Every day I wake up and think about the soul of our union - the culture of our union.I ask am I doing the best possible job," Lewenza said. When it's been a tough, difficult day, Lewenza said he remains inspired by the work of past and current national leadership, CAW local leadership, activists, members and delegates to the convention.
He thanked delegates for again supporting the election of a rank and file member National Executive Board.
In addition, to Lewenza's acclamation, National Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy was acclaimed and Sylvain Martin was nominated and acclaimed as Quebec director, replacing Jean-Pierre Fortin, who is retiring at the end of this year.
"I'm incredibly honoured and humbled that you have shown your support and confidence," Kennedy said.
Sylvain Martin thanked Fortin for his mentorship and integrity over the years. "An important lesson that I learned from Jean-Pierre, no matter how difficult the decision, always make it in the interests of the members of Quebec and the members of the union."
"Good luck to the new executive," said Fortin, during his heartfelt outgoing speech.
CAW Local 414 President Christine Connor, CAW Local 112 President Roland Kiehne and CAW Local 3000 President Jean Van Vliet were also nominated and acclaimed as NEB trustees.
CAW Local 302 President Nancy McMurphy was also acclaimed to the NEB as member at large.
Collective Bargaining and Political Action Program Approved
Delegates approved the union's 150-page Collective Bargaining and Political Action Program, which outlines upcoming bargaining, economic and political priorities for the union.
The document provides background, analysis and facts, while highlighting the goals of the union in every economic sector and aspect of its social and political involvement across the country.
It examines the CAW's bargaining philosophy, wages, pensions, benefits, health and safety, organizing, education, young workers and issues in Quebec, among many others. It also places the unions' challenges and priorities in the context of a detailed economic and political overview.
More than 100 delegates got up to the microphones to speak with passion about various aspects of the report, providing personal stories, background from their locals, detail, and context following presentations on each chapter of the document.
CAW Research Director Bill Murnighan coordinated the research, writing and production of the document, which was initially prepared, discussed and debated by a committee of 116 local union leadership and staff before being brought to the convention for discussion and final approval.
To read the complete document, visit: http://www.caw2012.ca/collective-bargaining-and-political-action-program/
CAW Rallies for Bell TV Workers
The CAW threw their support behind locked out CEP members who work at Bell TV, with nearly 1,000 convention delegates joining in a march and demonstration at the Bell ExpressVu building in downtown Toronto on August 23. The union temporarily adjourned its weeklong convention for delegates to participate. CEP Local 79M members have been locked out by Bell since July 11. CEP has been in negotiations with Bell TV since April 2011. On July 13, the Canada Industrial Relations Board declared the lock out illegal. Bell is demanding wage grid concessions of up to $6,000. CAW President Ken Lewenza called the lock out a "disgrace."
Resolutions submitted by various CAW local unions were debated and approved by convention delegates. These resolutions, in part, call for it to be resolved:
. that newly organized workplaces elect their first committee for a two year term following the first round of bargaining in order to offset the next election from bargaining. The following term would revert back to three years as per the term of office requirements of the constitution, Article 34, Section 3;
. that the CAW local union and workplace representatives are required to take the CAW week-long forty hour Human Rights Program;
. that our union negotiate the immediate reinstatement of pension COLA in the 2012 contract negotiations;
. that the CAW develop a plan for all workplace closure agreements to include:
- continuation of automatic dues check off,
- designate a person to handle retire benefit problems, etc.,
- obtain a list of active and retired members' addresses and telephone numbers;
Nelson Mandela Award
Every three years, the CAW names an individual or organization for exceptional achievement in the promotion of human rights. It is named in honour of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa. It recognizes the struggle, courage and achievement of Mandela in fighting against apartheid and in advancing human rights and social justice.
This year, the CAW named the former president of Brazil and trade unionist (Luiz Inácio) Lula da Silva as the Nelson Mandela recipient. Lula led the country for two terms, serving as president from 2003-2010 and is a founding member of Brazil's Workers' Party. As part of his mandate, Lula sought to eradicate hunger, implementing a number of successful programs across the country.
São Paulo, August 22, 2012
Dear comrade Ken Lewenza,
My dear fellows,
It is an honor to have been chosen by you as the awardee of the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award. And I receive it in this democratic event of the CAW, that every year gathers Canadian workers to renew their commitment with solidarity and social justice ideals, indispensable to the fight for a peaceful world, free of hunger.
It is also an important period in history. On one side, we have seen the peoples of the so-called Arab Spring restate, with energy and thrust of freedom, the value of democratic governance to the collective happiness and social welfare.
On the other side, workers have become the major victims of the international economic crisis, especially in the Old World.
They are punished for mistakes of a powerful, as much as imprudent, minority. Only creative and political solutions targeting social justice and democracy fortification shall solve such impasse of our time.
In days of challenge as those in which we live, we need to nurture the remembrance of the fights and examples incarnated by Nelson Mandela.
This man, who has just celebrated 94 years, communed with the love and hope of his siblings; he knew how to mobilize people without hatred and to strengthen the unison of his folk to confront political and economic barriers of his country. Until then, it seemed impossible. The vigor of Mandela's legacy, one of the greatest leaders in our history, must be in the hearts and minds of each of us.
In this day of fraternity, joy and fight, I want to send to you, here from Brazil, my best compliments, and to thank you wholeheartedly the honor that you conceded to me. It is a pity not to be there to hear the voice of all present. Know that despite of the distance my best wishes and my hope are with you.
A warm embrace,
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva