CAW Maintains Focus on Social Unionism, says Hargrove

September 2, 2010, 1:35 PM EST

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The creation of the CAW was characterized by new ideas, new opportunities and the emergence of the union into new sectors of the economy, said former CAW President Buzz Hargrove in his address to the CAW/TCA Joint Council in Montreal on August 27. The CAW set up new structures and new councils so that leaders and members could be confident that the interests of all those in the union were being represented.

"Bob White led the challenge to diversify our union," said Hargrove, which included the merger with the Canadian Air Line Employees Association (CALEA) and the separation of the Fishermen, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) from a U.S.-based union to merge with the CAW.

During Hargrove's and founding CAW Presidnt Bob White's tenure, changes also included staff responsibilities which saw staff representatives out in the field taking on more of a role in community building, that in turn built the union, said Hargrove.

He said all of these changes led to a much stronger union, one with an unwavering focus on social unionism which continues to this day.

He stressed that leadership is not about taking the easy way out. He spoke about a decision by then UAW Canadian Director Dennis McDermott to oppose the "War Measures Act," invoked by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during the Quebec October Crisis of 1970. At the time, the use of the Act was supported by 90 per cent of Canadians. The War Measures Act was also opposed by federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas who said that Canada does not have a gun culture, nor a gun society.

Hargrove urged NDP leader Jack Layton to share Douglas's courage and oppose the changes to the long gun registry and ensure his party defeats Bill C-391.

"There should be no free vote on this issue," said Hargrove.

The vote to dismantle the national long gun registry is scheduled for September 21 and 22 in the House of Commons.

Hargrove was the president of the CAW from 1992-2008 and is regarded as one of the most well-known and outspoken labour leaders of his time. 

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