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CAW-CEP merger in the works

MegB
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Joined: Nov 28 2001

Read it here.

Quote:

Two of the country’s most prominent unions are quietly holding merger talks in what could become the biggest consolidation in Canadian labour history.

In a response to harder times for organized labour in a tough economy, leaders of the Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union revealed Thursday that discussions have started and will probably accelerate during the next few months.


Comments

M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

This should not be taken as a sign of strength, but of weakness in the Canadian labour movement.


epaulo13
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Joined: Dec 13 2009

M. Spector wrote:

This should not be taken as a sign of strength, but of weakness in the Canadian labour movement.

..how so?


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

The union leaders themselves are putting it out as a need. It may be splitting hairs to argue whether that is or is not a sign of weakness.

But it would also be fair to see that it is a 'natural evolution' or whatever label you want and blah blah. There is truth to that tendency even if not driven by need.

I see circular to go any further on that question.


Bookish Agrarian
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Joined: Nov 26 2004

It would be a shame to see the CEP fall into the CAW's drift to corporatism as revealed by the CAW's behaviour in Port Elgin.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

My initial take on this story is that it's not good news as both unions should be able to stand and grow on their own without needing a merger. I'm sure someone will correct me. Sealed


robbie_dee
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Joined: Apr 20 2001

I would have thought the Steelworkers would have made more sense, considering their predominant representation of West Coast logging and pulp and paper workers since 2006.

 

http://www.usw.ca/districts/wood

 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Bookish Agrarian wrote:

It would be a shame to see the CEP fall into the CAW's drift to corporatism as revealed by the CAW's behaviour in Port Elgin.

You mean the windmill?

 


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

The old Paperworkers and the IWA were not the greatest of friends,.

The CEP has like Steel and the CAW made some effort to organize non-industrial workers. Modest compared to the other two, but of them maybe more comparable to the CAW. Steel strikes me as being more of an entity into itself. But I guess a lot of people would say that about the CAW. I'm inclined to think the latter has more of a different image and politics.

 


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Boom Boom wrote:

My initial take on this story is that it's not good news as both unions should be able to stand and grow on their own without needing a merger. I'm sure someone will correct me. Sealed

 

I don't know, but I would think that more workers contributing dues to a common union would strengthen them in cases of strike action. A larger strike fund for workers to draw from could come in handy during long and drawn out negotiations withprivate enterprise, and especially when governmnents refuse to step in and mediate. Foreign based supranationals tend to have deeper pockets than groups of workers at any of their given branch plants and more able to outlast them. The multinats like to be bigger and stronger, and I think unions have to start eating their wheaties in kind.


Bookish Agrarian
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Joined: Nov 26 2004

Unionist wrote:

Bookish Agrarian wrote:

It would be a shame to see the CEP fall into the CAW's drift to corporatism as revealed by the CAW's behaviour in Port Elgin.

You mean the windmill?

 

Yes their excuse is that they have already spent too much money - heard that one before by Wal-Mart and others thanks.  

So even though it will be set back less distance than current rules allow, will be predominately effecting some of the poorest residents of Port Elgin (since cheap apartments and low income town houses are well within the acoustic boundary- along with some rather modest senior townhouses) and will only have the power going into the grid, not powering the Centre and has steam rollered over the local community it makes a mockery of all the values the CAW says it has stood for over all these years.  Why they didn't just put solar on all the buildings and actually net meter their power for the Centre, thus using most of the renewable energy they produced (unlike an industrial wind turbine) is beyond me, but you don't make as much money off your solar investment as you do industrial wind.  Given the comments in the paper by the CAW President it is pretty clear it all comes down to money (which I find shocking as I have always held my association with the CAW with great pride) and the community and local residents be damned.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

I know it's thread drift, but after reading BA's post, I realize I knew next to nothing about this developing story. Seems a whole lot of folks are very unhappy with the CAW's move, as well as its apparent indifference to local opposition. Is there another side to this story??

Port Elgin CAW turbine meeting packed

Anyway, on the substantive issue of the thread, I have always had a hard time understanding why, in this day and age, workers need more than one union. Unions are no longer organized exclusively on craft lines - that hill was taken over 100 years ago. Nor do they limit themselves to some particular industrial sector. The CAW, the CEP, Steel, Teamsters, and many others are engaged in multiple and overlapping economic sectors. They can't pretend to any special or indispensable expertise. The common interests of workers in different sectors are far more pressing than any technical differences, and in any event, multi-sectorial unionism has long since trumped those specialized interests. The best example is the CSN in Québec, which some think of as a union federation (it's big and broad enough to be one) like the FTQ, but formally speaking it's a single union, with locals in different enterprises and bargaining units.

In short - one union. Yes, there are risks. But it's no worse than the risks involved in having one society. In both cases, democracy and serving the interests of its members will never exist by decree. They must be won and constantly consolidated through active participation and struggle.

 


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
Just curious. Always wondered at the wonderful nationalist spirit of the Steelworkers, in the face of their international office. CAW had to break away to achieve that. What am I missing? And doesn't the politics of particular unions, their diversity, weigh against the idea of One Big One? It's not just the diverse nature of their workplaces.

Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

I really don't think the "politics" and culture etc. of different unions is any bar to merger, the way it might be with political parties. If anything, it would be the fear of some entrenched bureaucracies of losing their power/privilege. But from the workers' standpoint (and we do count for something...), who needs different unions? One thing I've long noticed is that for most day-to-day issues (workplace problems, working conditions, human rights, health and safety, organizing, etc. etc.), success and satisfaction is more dependent on the dedication of various elected reps than on anything to do with the overall "institution". Of course, some unions have better or worse training and education facilities and commitment; legal services; research departments; etc. - but none of that in any way stamps the outlook and character of the membership in such a way as to say, "I'll never agree to a merger with those other workers who don't have the same history/culture/services". At least, not in my experience.

One big union. A century later, under vastly different conditions, it is more desirable and essential than ever. A union not based on a trade, a sector, or a workplace - but on the working class. A union where you belong, even if you lose your job and have to go work somewhere else - or even if you remain unemployed. A union that doesn't raid or defend itself from raids. A union whose economic and political clout puts the hollow shell of a CLC to shame.


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

Notable that many European federations act a lot like a 'one big union' in practice. Even now, when it is has been getting harder and harder to do that.


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

And a one big union, or a few that tended to cooperate, would stand a better chance of really coming through on organizing the chronicaly unorganized.

Because as good initiatives as some of the unions have, and have had, it does not add up to what we need either 'quantitatively' or qualitatively- as in "this or these things we can have confidence is/are going to work."


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
Quote: "One big union. A century later, under vastly different conditions, it is more desirable and essential than ever. A union not based on a trade, a sector, or a workplace - but on the working class. A union where you belong, even if you lose your job and have to go work somewhere else - or even if you remain unemployed. A union that doesn't raid or defend itself from raids. A union whose economic and political clout puts the hollow shell of a CLC to shame." That's why I always thought the UE and Jackson to be the best of the CIO invasion. Too bad C.S. had to wear the communist label.The membership at CGE found it a worker-led outfit, founded on the shop floor. A Peterborough friend told me recently that Jackson won a lottery at retirement and ended his days in capitalist splendour. :)

Bookish Agrarian
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Joined: Nov 26 2004

I should probably know this, but most of my reading is historical- are the Wobblies still around?  Wouldn't they sort of fit the bill already?


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Yeah, the Wobblies still exist, but they're kind of too small and unknown to be the focus of such a movement:

http://iww.ca

http://iww.org

 


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
I still have my Wobbly membership card...signed up while walking a picket line on strike.A bit behind on dues.

Polunatic2
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Joined: Mar 12 2006

Quote:
One big union. A century later, under vastly different conditions, it is more desirable and essential than ever.

Here, here. 

I have no objection to the idea that unions merge with one another to build up their strength. Not sure why Spector sees that as a sign of weakness. 

I attended an IWW film showing about the history of the Wobblies a few years back. That was in Toronto. They couldn't get the VCR to work so they turned it into a (long) meeting. I never did see the film. I wasn't too impressed with the organization, particularly their idea that they could organize big box stores in a particular mall and force all the employers to bargain together. 

I am with them in spirit though. I particularly like the "philosophy" that every member is an organizer and that they don't employ staff. The international president was earning $10,000 a year. 


prowsej
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Joined: Jun 10 2001

I'm a CEP member. I think that the idea presented here that there can be a benefit to having a larger union because of the larger strike fund is a good one. I just would have thought that the CEP was already large enough and that there aren't significant economies of scale in running a union, beyond a certain size. 


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

My educated guess is that you are probably right that there are not operating cost efficiencies in already large unions merging. I think it likely that it actually works the other way- though not talking about dramatic differeneces.

But the main argument for bigger-better is probably about 'clout'. Like bargaining power, strike fund accumulation [the more spread across industries and economic sectors the better], organizing drives, and politics of all kinds on the broader public stage.


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

Polunatic2 wrote:

I have no objection to the idea that unions merge with one another to build up their strength. Not sure why Spector sees that as a sign of weakness.

Read those two sentences again and maybe you'll understand. The fact that they contemplate a merger "to build up their strength" implies an awareness of their own separate weaknesses "in...harder times for organized labour in a tough economy", to quote the OP.

I never said that a merger would make them weaker. Quite the contrary.

I just think the fact that they are talking about merger at all is a sign of their weakness and desperation.

 


NorthReport
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Joined: Jul 6 2008

On the contrary. The unions exploring mergers are the unions that will have a future are living in the real world as opposed to some make believe fantasy some others are living in.

Several unions are in major trouble no longer providing medical benefits and cutting back on pension plan proceeds.


prowsej
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Joined: Jun 10 2001

I think one of the best examples of synergy in a union merger is UNITE HERE: one side of that merger had money but a declining membership base, the other didn't have money but had a lot of opportunity for new organizing. 


robbie_dee
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Joined: Apr 20 2001

prowsej wrote:

I think one of the best examples of synergy in a union merger is UNITE HERE: one side of that merger had money but a declining membership base, the other didn't have money but had a lot of opportunity for new organizing. 

Yeah well we saw how that one turned out.


Wilf Day
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Joined: Oct 31 2002
robbie_dee wrote:

I would have thought the Steelworkers would have made more sense, considering their predominant representation of West Coast logging and pulp and paper workers since 2006.

Leo Gerard's term as international president of Steel ends in 2013. He turns 65 this year. If he retires, would this be a good time for Steel in Canada to join a One Big Canadian Union? After CEP and the CAW have founded it? Or would it be better for all three to do it together?


robbie_dee
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Joined: Apr 20 2001

I hardly see what purpose that would serve. International affiliation has served the Canadian Steelworkers quite well, as Leo Gerard's presidency itself shows. Rather, I would suggest that post-NAFTA, it would be better for the CAW and CEP to reflect on whether romantic nationalism really best meets their members' needs given current economic realities.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

robbie_dee wrote:

I hardly see what purpose that would serve. International affiliation has served the Canadian Steelworkers quite well, as Leo Gerard's presidency itself shows. Rather, I would suggest that post-NAFTA, it would be better for the CAW and CEP to reflect on whether romantic nationalism really best meets their members' needs given current economic realities.

Huh?????

"Romantic nationalism"????

Maybe "post-NAFTA", we should just set up a joint government with the U.S, "given current economic realities".

Don't go there.

 


robbie_dee
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Joined: Apr 20 2001

Current national borders were not established with workers' interests in mind. I don't think we should elevate adherence to them over other, broader common interests.


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