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CEP and CAW new union project: The challenges ahead

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I've never witnessed the birth of a human before, but I hear that there is a lot of crying, pain, tears and then joy.

I've also never witnessed the birth of a new union. I can't say if it’s appropriate to make a metaphor for one with the other. I’ll see tomorrow. 

At 9:00 AM, delegates to the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Convention in Québec City will receive a report that argues in favour of new union, created by the merger of CEP and the Canadian Auto Workers.

The presentation will be the same one that was given to the Canadian Auto Workers on August 22. Their vote was unanimous.

CEP will debate the report and vote tomorrow afternoon.

The new union would combine CAW with CEP to become the largest private sector union in Canada. CAW members will outnumber CEP members by two to one. When broken out by sector, manufacturing workers will be the largest sector at 94,400 members and communications and transportation workers will be the smallest sectors with 41,600 and 40,600 members respectively.

The proposal lays out a new representative structure, with regional, national and Québec representation. A founding convention will be held sometime in 2013. Issues such as a relationship with the NDP, the new name and logo and voting structure at conventions would be determined after tomorrow's (likely successful) vote. 

As with all beginnings, there are risks and opportunities. David Bush goes through these at his blog.

The proposal's heavy rhetoric argues that a new union will be the force necessary to take on (or take down) Stephen Harper.

But, with many questions unanswered, the risk exists that this merger will not achieve its stated goals.

"Our political activism is motivated by the desire to challenge capitalism and to transform the economy," states the New Union Proposal. Throughout, references are made to the need to organize young or precarious workers.

It sounds really great.

But, with CAW having just ratified an agreement where young workers will be paid four dollars less per hour than in the previous contract, it’s clear that the road toward the creation of a fighting and progressive new union will not be smooth or easy.

Both unions have different histories and approaches to social justice. It will be a major task to merge the two unions into a united and coherent single entity.

The other question will be can the new union maintain its commitment to fighting for progressive from among the grassroots?

The goals stated in the new union proposal are noble and necessary.

If the proposal is supported tomorrow, it will be up to the members to pressure their leadership to uphold the vision of a strong and progressive force in Canadian labour.

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