The Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) have proposed the creation of a new union that would have two of the largest private sector unions merge.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday in Toronto, Dave Coles, CEP National President; Ken Lewenza, CAW National President; Gaetan Menard, CEP Secretary-Treasurer and Proposal Committee co-chair; and Peter Kennedy, CAW Secretary-Treasurer and Proposal Committee co-chair, gathered to announce the final report on the formation of a new union.
During the event held at Ryerson University, the union representatives, who began talks more than eight months ago, explained that it’s not so much as a merger of the CAW and CEP, but rather the foundation of a new one. If approved, it would be the largest industrial union in the history of Canada.
It would represent more than 300,000 members across the country and would consist of five regional councils and a 25-member executive board. The union representatives provided a projection year of 2013 for its creation. It is still unnamed.
Ken Lewenza, CAW National President, speaking at a press conference in Toronto
One of the reasons the idea was proposed was to combat against governments and corporations that they say are attacking the unions nationwide, such as the federal government’s back-to-work legislation and the battle between Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and the province’s unions.
The union projects annual revenues of $100 million and will distribute the revenues to a general fund (75 percent), defense/strike fund (10 percent), organizing fund (10 percent), education fund (3.75 percent) and convention fund (1.25 percent). It was noted that the new union would spend $50 million over five years to recruit new members and grow more local unions.
“The report embraces a new vision. A new vision for the two unions involved, but also a new vision for the labour movement. We take that very seriously, our responsibility. This is the largest coming together of two unions in the history of Canada. It is an important occasion and we know the labour movement is watching as well as corporate and political Canada,” stated Coles.
“It is a proposed new union for new times; a new political and economic reality. Everyone knows since the Great Depression of 2007 and 2008, the rules have changed in our relationship with governments and with corporations and we envision this new union to more effectively and efficiently take forward the needs and desires of working people across Canada. It must be profoundly democratic.”
Gaetan Menard, CEP Secretary-Treasurer and Proposal Committee co-chair speaking at a press conference in Toronto.
The final report highlights aspects of the suggested union:
- A new national union rate of 0.735 percent of workers’ wages and a per capita levy of 0.0135 percent of regular wages.
- A strong presence of local unions in each province
- Membership will be available to all workers who do not have access to a union, including freelancers, unemployed, students, self-employed, temporary and workers in non-union businesses
- A defense/strike fund would give $250 per week to striking members
- Union education will provide courses to members, activists and leaders that will include analysis on topics such as economics and history
During their respective conventions scheduled later this year – CAW in August and CEP in October – the final report will be presented to members from both unions.
“To [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper, to Wall, to [Progressive Conservative of Ontario leader Tim] Hudak and to all those politicians who want to attack the workers in this country, get ready because in a very short period we will have the largest organization that will kick your butt,” concluded Menard.