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article imageNew union Unifor Canada's largest in the private sector

By Ken Hanly     Sep 2, 2013 in Politics
Toronto - Saturday, August 31, over 4,000 people with about 2,000 delegates attended the founding convention of a new Canadian Union, Unifor. Unifor is a merger of the Canadian Autoworkers' Union (CAW) with the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers' Union (CEP).
The presidents of neither union ran for the presidency of the new union. Elected president of the new union was Jerry Dias, assistant to the CAW national president Ken Lewenza. With about 300,000 members, Unifor will be the largest private sector union in Canada.
Both Ken Lewenza president of CAW and Dave Coles, president of CEP said they thought the organization needed fresh leadership and so they did not run for the presidency. They also say that the union needs a broader more diverse membership. However, they already represent 20 different sectors. In a speech Saturday Coles said: "This convention is about all workers across this country, especially those workers who work in precarious employment, who are abused by their employers, who fail to make a decent living because their bosses are jamming the profits of their corporations and companies into their pockets,"
Ken Lewenza the CAW president made the point that the union should represent more than just their members reflecting the fact that unions have often supported expanded social programs such as universal health care: "We recognize that we are speaking for 300,000 members... but in today's deliberations we are talking about 30 million Canadians, Canadians with the right to universal health care, the right to child care and the right to good public services,"
The desire to broaden and branch out is reflected in the non-traditional name of the union Unifor, Union for Canada. Most unions are named after the groups of workers they represent.
A great deal of discussion at the convention concerned expanding membership into areas that traditionally have not been unionized such as the fast-food industry. Even though unions have been under attack lately both in Canada and the US, the delegates were heartened by the recent strikes within the fast-food industry in the US.
Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto noted:“There is no doubt that the union moment in the private sector is on its heels, it has been in retreat for some years now, It is a sign of their weakening power that they have to combine” .
The union will set aside one tenth of its total budget for workplace sign-up drives and paying legal bills of groups that are attempting to unionize. The union also is expanding the categories of union membership notes Fred Wilson a Unifor official: “We will have three categories of membership in the new union, one category will be members in bargaining units, the second are retired members and a third category will be members without collective units,”
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