September 7, 2012

Volume 42, No. 30

Little Progress in Auto Bargaining, CAW says

As Contact went to press, there was little progress in bargaining with automakers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

CAW has not yet announced a target, with the aim of moving negotiations along with all three. But so far all the bargaining committees have come up against the same barrier with all three corporations refusing to add any costs whatsoever and instead, insisting on cutting costs from CAW agreements.
Local unions across the three chains were asked this week to form strike committees and start preparations for strike action. The deadline is September 17 at 11:59 p.m.

Workers at all three companies have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike if necessary, backing up their bargaining committees with strong mandates.

In a September 5 Auto Talks bulletin to the membership, the bargaining committees urged the membership to be prepared.

"It is our hope and intention to reach an agreement with at least one of the three companies before the deadline. We must be prepared though to shut down operations at all three, should we be unable to reach an agreement," the committees said.

The last CAW strike in auto bargaining was in 1996, against General Motors.

To find out more about auto bargaining visit


Hope Springs Eternal for Workers this Labour Day

Over the last century, trade unions have been a powerful force for change in Canadian workplaces and Canadian society more generally. Millions of workers have placed their faith in their union as a vehicle for improving their lives and those of their family. Today union density is declining and with it our collective standard of living. It's no coincidence that as fewer workers have access to a union contract, fewer see their incomes keep pace with the cost of living and many are just scraping by.

In a survey published this week just in time for Labour Day, nearly two thirds of respondents said they felt optimistic about their job security for the next year.  (I can't help but wonder if this optimism comes from comparing ourselves to the bleak situation in Europe and our neighbours to the south).

CAW members joined tens of thousands of Labour Day parade-goers in Toronto on September 3, marching under the banner "Unite Against Austerity". CAW members participated in Labour Day events throughout the country. For photos, visit:

Of this same poll, conducted for the Bank of Montreal, approximately one fifth of respondents said they felt stuck in dead end jobs. It is this group I'm most concerned about.  If these numbers are representative of the Canadian population overall, then that means millions are stuck in jobs they don't want, earning less than what they need, without the prospect of anything better on the horizon. 
This is the real challenge for unions - to reach out to precariously employed, low-wage, part-time and temporary workers, including those new to Canada and those who participate in migrant work programs. There are vast legions of workers stuck in the same situation and it is this diverse group that is most in need of help.  When we look back years from now, I believe the worth of unions will be measured against our success in organizing and improving the lives of these precarious workers.

However great, I know we're up to the task. There is much cause for hope and excitement. The CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union (CEP) are planning to take the dramatic action of combining forces to take on this and other challenges within today's economy. Already the CAW has voted to join with the CEP to form a new union.  One final vote is needed - delegates to the CEP Convention will cast their ballot in October.

Part of this new initiative will be unprecedented outreach to unorganized workers - through community-based local unions, with the help of an organizing fund of $50 million. Local unions will be hubs of activity for workers' rights and awareness, providing services to the membership and affiliated community members. A new membership model will allow for the organization to be a truly inclusive national general workers union - a genuine home for all working people, regardless of their profession, job, or employment status.

As unions, we must innovate. Organizations like unions are living entities, moving and shifting as need be. This shift that we're now making is a profound one, a dramatic one and a thrilling one.  Workers of any origin or status will soon have the unhindered choice to join a union - I'm confident that thousands will.


Sign Your Donor Card

CAW President Ken Lewenza joins CAW Local 222 member Phil Goodwin at the recent CAW convention in Toronto. Goodwin co-ordinates Trillium Gift of Life initiatives on behalf of the union. He urged convention delegates to sign organ and tissue donation cards and to find out more about registering online at if they are Ontario residents.
(Photo by Joe Sarnovsky, Local 222)


Workers' Compensation Conference: October 26 to 28

The CAW's national Workers' Compensation Conference will take place at the union's Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario from October 26 to 28.

The conference theme is Injured Workers' Advocacy: Anger to Action, Access to Justice and participants will deal with issues that CAW workers' compensation activists are confronting across the country.

The deadline for registration is October 12. For more information contact CAW Health and Safety Director Sari Sairanen at


CLC Labour College Grads

Labour College of Canada Graduates at the CAW's Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario joined together to celebrate on August 30, 2012. Pictured from left to right are Richard Labonte (Local 444), Preethy Sivakumar (Local 252), Patrick Murray (Council 4000), Lisa Kelly (CAW Director of Education), Richard Paquette (Local 444) and Billy O'Neill (Local 707).Information regarding next year's labour college can be found at The deadline for applications is November 5, 2012.

It's Not Too Late!

You can still access on-demand videos, news stories and other items from the 2012 CAW Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention at

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