Now is the Time to Change Status Quo, Labour Experts say
March 14, 2012, 12:10 PM EST
Conference and New Website Kick Off CAW/CEP Union Talks
At a conference organized to kick-off the new union discussions between the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, labour experts stressed that corporate power and anti-worker governments are driving the need for union renewal.
Pradeep Kumar, Queen's University Professor Emeritus, Lana Payne, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour President, and John Cartwright, Toronto and York Region Labour Council President, were among the top labour movement thinkers who spoke to more than 100 leaders and activists about the need for union renewal.
Professor Kumar noted that "the main reason for urgency on union renewal is the declining union power and influence due to a fundamentally different political, economic and social environments hostile to unions, combined with a sense of complacency and possibly a 'battle fatigue' after more than two decades of defensive struggles."
"Union renewal and labor movement revitalization will remain fragmented and ineffective without a coordinated approach and a common vision and agenda," he said. "This is an opportune time to reflect on current state and future prospects. There is clear opportunity for unions in the present moment."
John Cartwright and Lana Payne echoed those sentiments. "Most importantly you are saying the status quo is no longer OK and we're going to do something about it," added Payne.
Cartwright stressed the need "to go back to the grass roots to find the strength to prevail against powerful corporations and their political servants. We do that best by looking to our roots - the patient, tough, sustained work that was done by those who first built our unions. Those future conversations at kitchen tables - about the kind of future we want for our families, our neighbours and our world - will be the key to our success in the 21st century."
The two unions have set up a website to keep members updated and engaged on discussions about the possibility of creating a new union.
http://www.newunionproject.ca/ features the conference presentations, statistics on CEP and CAW -- which together would represent some 300,000 members in almost every sector of the Canadian economy -- a timetable, and other information and resources.
The kick-off conference was held on Feb. 25-27 at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto. The two unions will be continuing discussions this week in Ottawa from March 15-17.
Read the joint letter from CAW President Ken Lewenza and CEP President Dave Coles.
Read the joint letter in french from CAW President Ken Lewenza and CEP President Dave Coles