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CAW-CEP merger in the works

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Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

I honestly fail to grasp your point, robbie_dee. "International" unionism in Canada (i.e. Canadian workers having their union HQ in the U.S.) is dead as a doornail. The only way to establish international cooperation between unions is to ensure that we have fully independent unions representing Canadian workers as a foundation. As for national borders, no, they weren't established with workers' interests in mind - but which ones would you propose erasing in the short term?

 


robbie_dee
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Joined: Apr 20 2001

I would like to see an expansion of this model: Workers Uniting


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

The merger talk is getting louder and more public;

CAW, CEP unions exploring merger

Quote:

“Events like the lockout at Caterpillar have made it increasingly obvious that Canadian workers need a stronger, more active, and more innovative labour movement to defend them,” Ken Lewenza, the CAW's national president, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Our movement cannot afford a ‘business-as-usual' approach in light of the attacks we face from both business and government. We need to combine our resources, and use them more effectively, if we are to protect Canadian jobs and push for greater equality in this incredibly hostile economic environment.”

Dave Coles, president of the CEP, said the goal is to “create a new, Canadian union.”

“We are examining every aspect of our work as trade unions, from organizing to bargaining to political activism. We are working to create a stronger union movement and a better future for workers,” Mr. Coles said.

 


Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

The follup-up article in the Toronto Star (Unions must change quickly to survive) speaks of the need for unions to become

"a lot more relevant to working people, not only in contract bargaining, but for social change . . . [if they are to] reverse the erosion of our membership, our power and our prestige."

How might such a change ever come to pass?  Do we need to transform union leaders into celebrities?

 


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
You pose a damned good question here, GB, as indicated by the absence of responses. If you are a union member, perhaps you could provide some thoughts to get the answers rolling? I would think that some meaningful economic input, something beyond Jim Stanford's call for the use of new technology and social media to "educate, agitate, organize and mobilize." Perhaps you are wondering what the "education" of workers would involve, GB?

Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

Am I a union member?  Rather than answer here, I've posted some work-related info on my profile.  Take a peek.

I suspect that if Jim Stanford, in particular, and the CAW, in general, knew how to "educate, agitate, organize and mobilize" using the ne technology and social media, they would be doing it rather than talking about doing it--and the working men and women of Canada would be experiencing the benefits.  What is the evidence that they do know how to do it?

My question about transforming union leaders into celebrities was ironic, but I have heard it argued that turning people such as Jim Stanford into celebrities is what must be done.  Perhaps so.  After all, we have witnessed the rise of celebrity economists in the States.  Perhaps the CAW should focus its efforts on moving Jim Stanford up the celebrity ladder, in the hope that when he gets his own column in The Globe and Mail, all our lives improve.

During my working life I have witnessed the decline and fall of private sector unionism and the loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and the United States. Steve Jobs reportedly told Barack Obama that the jobs Apple exported to China are never, ever going to return.  Does anyone here think that Jobs is wrong about that?


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

I see that Gramps is a man of few wrods around here.

You might spread yourself around more.  Wink


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
GB: "During my working life I have witnessed the decline and fall of private sector unionism and the loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and the United States. Steve Jobs reportedly told Barack Obama that the jobs Apple exported to China are never, ever going to return. Does anyone here think that Jobs is wrong about that?" I think he was wrong, GB, because current adulation for an industry that provides products holding folks in thrall, even while Jobs' Chinese plants spread netting around tall buildings to catch the fallng bodies CANNOT be sustained. A "social media" telling people about the blood on their hands, whether from purchasing jewels from the Diamond Coast or the "satanic mills" turning out "competitive products", has to finally come home, once the wizadry has been reduced to its historical, tawdry form of human exploitation. Strangely enough, the word is taking its time. Almost as though Naomi Klein's No Logo was never written. But I believe that Globalism is close to running out of excuses. Once upon a time we stopped eating California grapes, drinking South African wine, in defense of such simple virtues. It would seem to me that that would be something that Jim STanford could teach. Hell, Rabble could do with such a lesson.

Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

This thread is asking the question, What ought unions do "in a response to harder times for organized labour in a tough economy."

One response has been that unions must become "a lot more relevant to working people, not only in contract bargaining, but for social change . . . [if they are to] reverse the erosion of our membership, our power and our prestige."

The public face of negotiations in Toronto has been interesting:

  • union offers a wage freeze for renewal of the current contract
  • city offers wage increases in a renegotiated contract

What if the union offered to renegotiate the contract in return for caps and reductions of wages, salaries, and bonuses of city managers and bureaucrats?  The effect of such an offer would be twofold:

  1. it would address the image of its members as "pigs at the trough," which is key to improving union prestige
  2. it would address the wage gap, which is key to moving a social change agenda forward

 


Gaian
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Joined: Aug 5 2011
But as we see this morning, the settlement in Toronto brought huge sighs of relief on both sides. Would it have been an ideal occasion to proceed with your idea, GB: "What if the union offered to renegotiate the contract in return for caps and reductions of wages, salaries, and bonuses of city managers and bureaucrats?" Perhaps someone more knowledgeable in labour law than I could explain if this would fly, legally? If it could, then it certainly seems a marvelous start for those in public unions not facing the Caterpillars of the private sector...where it would have no traction at all,clearly.

M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

Grandpa_Bill wrote:

What if the union offered to renegotiate the contract in return for caps and reductions of wages, salaries, and bonuses of city managers and bureaucrats?  The effect of such an offer would be twofold:

  1. it would address the image of its members as "pigs at the trough," which is key to improving union prestige
  2. it would address the wage gap, which is key to moving a social change agenda forward

It would also put an end to any image the union might aspire to of being a fighting force against government-imposed austerity. And it would "address the wage gap" by helping to make unionized workers as poor as non-unionized ones.

Are those your goals as well?


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Workers in Canada do not need more than one union. It needs to be democratic, answerable to and directed by the rank and file - but so do all existing unions. I'm sure declining finances are one of the main motives driving a CAW-CEP merger, but I think it's one of the most exciting developments around in a flat landscape. Much more so than the for-show-only "international" alliances of USW and the like.

 


Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

I wondered:  "What if the union offered to renegotiate the contract in return for caps and reductions of wages, salaries, and bonuses of city managers and bureaucrats?"

Two interesting responses--thank you. 

Gaian wondered whether it would fly legally. I, myself, think that it wouldn't, but it would get media attention and it would, I think, address the need to reverse the erosion of lost union prestige.

As I see it, Gaian, the road towards increased social justice requires that we reverse the loss of union prestige, the loss of union power, and the loss of union membership.  Perhaps we need to do it in that order. If so, then perhaps my suggestion has merit.  But what do I know, eh?!  I'm not in the workforce any more. Those who are have the burden of dealing with this problem.

M. Spector says that it would do two things:

  1. "put an end to any image the union might aspire to of being a fighting force against government-imposed austerity.
  2. "And it would "address the wage gap" by helping to make unionized workers as poor as non-unionized ones."

Here are my thoughts on these two points:

  1. I know lower/middle class people who voted for Mayor Ford.  Those people view public sector unions as something other than "a fighting force against government-imposed austerity."  Sad to say, they view unionized public sector workers as "pigs at the trough."  By advocating for greater income equality, these unions might succeed in reversing the erosion of their prestige.  That's essentially what I think, but I may be wrong to think so.
  2. My understanding of the wage gap:  the spread between the highest paid and the lowest paid.  If directors and administrators are the highest pai, then reducing their salaries/wages and eliminating their bonuses reduces the wage gap.  It would be wonderful to hear public sector unions speak out for doing this.  If they don't, who will?

 

 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Sounds good. Instead of being able to afford better food, settle for what you've got, and demand worse food for the next rank up of management types. Reduce the gap. While the billionaires laugh and laugh and laugh. I think I'll bring that proposal to my next union meeting. I'll let you know how it flies. Or if I do.

 


Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

A reasonable point, Unionist.  I take my hat off to you:  you're still both working for a wage and struggling with social justice issues, while I sit idly about in my retirement.  You will do what you feel you must. 

My mention of actions that Reduce the Gap is based on decades of research that show "more equal societies almost always do better."  Income IN-equality is associated with a dozen or more markers of societal health and well-being.  What matters is not the absolute amount of income that poorer people have, but the spread between their wages and the top earners.

Certasinly the tax system has been rigged for the benefit of high-income people.  So, adjust the tax system.  Take that proposal to your next union meeting--and let us kniow if it flies.  Thousand mile journey . . . . 

But until it does, consider what can be done within the organization where you work to reduce income IN-equality.  Such action would address the erosion of union prestige, I think, but you know more about that than I do, eh?! 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Grandpa_Bill wrote:
What matters is not the absolute amount of income that poorer people have, but the spread between their wages and the top earners.

Heh. No. I don't think so.

Here they are, your 100 "top earners".

You could reduce the top dude(tte)s from, say, $16 million (not counting stock options, capital gains, etc.) by 90%, to $1.6 million.

That would hugely reduce the gap.

Would workers and the poor say: "Ah, that's better! Now I can pay my bills, not worry about layoff, not worry about my kids' futures..."?

I don't know, but seems to me the answer is, "Not really."

Sure, one way to make your grass look greener is to paint the neighbour's grass brown. But you'll end up spending more on brown dye - there are lots of neighbours out there - than you would have by paying more attention to your own lawn.

And yeah, it's not the "absolute amount" of income that matters either. It's what your needs are and how much they cost and how much you can afford.

That's why socialists think that we should keep increasing the scope of necessary goods and services that are provided free of charge (or very cheap) by society as a whole. We've already made great strides with health care and K-12 education. We should go much further (pharmaceuticals, dental care, post-secondary tuition and living expenses, etc.). And then we should do likewise with social housing, public child care, etc. etc. Ultimately, people won't need as much income - because they won't have big charges to pay at the store or on their credit card.

That's my solution, anyway. And in the meantime, workers will keep fighting for better wages and benefits, irrespective of how much or how little the more privileged members of society pay themselves.

 


Wilf Day
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Joined: Oct 31 2002

Unionist wrote:

. . . we should keep increasing the scope of necessary goods and services that are provided free of charge (or very cheap) by society as a whole. We've already made great strides with health care and K-12 education. We should go much further (pharmaceuticals, dental care, post-secondary tuition and living expenses, etc.).

Agreed.

Unionist wrote:

And then we should do likewise with social housing, public child care, etc. etc. Ultimately, people won't need as much income - because they won't have big charges to pay at the store or on their credit card.

Umm, what does "etc. etc." mean? Food and clothes to the extent covered by your ration coupons, as during the second world war? It could be done, but I'm not sure who wants to have line-ups and ration books at the department stores, Soviet-style.

Free child care? Does any country have that? Again, it could be done, but are you serious?

Social housing for the 99%? Really?


radiorahim
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Joined: Jun 17 2002

Wilf Day wrote:

Umm, what does "etc. etc." mean? Food and clothes to the extent covered by your ration coupons, as during the second world war? It could be done, but I'm not sure who wants to have line-ups and ration books at the department stores, Soviet-style.

Free child care? Does any country have that? Again, it could be done, but are you serious?

Social housing for the 99%? Really?

If you've seen the inside of a food bank, we have defacto ration coupons now for the poor who use them.   Just that they're all run by private charities and often run out of food.

Why not integrate childcare into the public school system and make it free.    Quebec has the best childcare system in Canada right now.  It would be good if even that programme could be implemented Canada-wide.

Social housing could definitely be expanded.   Social housing does not necessarily mean public housing.   Canada used to have a "world class" co-op housing model, a model that was frequently copied around the world.   But then federal and provincial governments decided to "get out of the housing business" and killed the programme.

 


Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

Grandpa_Bill wrote:

My mention of actions that Reduce the Gap is based on decades of research that show "more equal societies almost always do better."  Income IN-equality is associated with a dozen or more markers of societal health and well-being.  What matters is not the absolute amount of income that poorer people have, but the spread between their wages and the top earners.

What I said sounds like a bit of nonsense, doesn't it, and Unionist is quite rightly skeptical.  But literally decades of research shows that it isn't nonsense.  Don't take my word for it.  Here's a link to The Equality Trust website:

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/why

"In rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, helthier and more successful population. . . .  There is no relationship between income per head and social well-being."

 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Wilf Day wrote:

Unionist wrote:

And then we should do likewise with social housing, public child care, etc. etc. Ultimately, people won't need as much income - because they won't have big charges to pay at the store or on their credit card.

Umm, what does "etc. etc." mean? Food and clothes to the extent covered by your ration coupons, as during the second world war? It could be done, but I'm not sure who wants to have line-ups and ration books at the department stores, Soviet-style.

Whoa, Wilf - been noticing Reds under beds lately? "Etc. etc." means precisely this: That instead of retreating from the provision of necessary services to people, the state should be constantly looking at how people's needs should be provided - efficiently, fairly - without leaving them to chance and without leaving people in the lurch. And "etc. etc." means I'm not a genius - we need to have a collective discussion. So, some examples? Job training. Ever expanding, free of charge, not leaving it to the whim of employers. Yeah, social housing. Food and clothes? Never thought of that - any ideas? We have privately run food banks, and we have private charities and stores that provide cheap used clothing and furniture... Why couldn't the state do that as well? Why should it just give $$$money$$$ to the most indigent, and then wash its hands?

Quote:
Free child care? Does any country have that? Again, it could be done, but are you serious?

Where in my posts did you read "free child care"? We have $7.00 a day child care where I live, because the government says so. How much do people pay where you live?

Quote:
Social housing for the 99%? Really?

Who said that? I was talking about guaranteed annual income. Do you think the 99% need a guaranteed annual income? We're talking about measures to deal with poverty (though I have no clue as to why we're doing that in this thread, but what the heck, a good conversation fits everywhere, right?). What exactly did you read into "social housing"?

I think we should sit down and identify what the 99% need, and have a broad social conversation about whether those needs should be supplied by chance, or luck of birth, or high incomes - or by society making a concerted effort to ensure that no one goes without.


Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

Unionist wrote:

I think we should sit down and identify what the 99% need, and have a broad social conversation about whether those needs should be supplied by chance, or luck of birth, or high incomes - or by society making a concerted effort to ensure that no one goes without.

I`m taking your comment as ironic, Unionist, assuming that all of us here are on the side of `society making a concerted effort to ensure that no one goes without.` We know that in rich countries where the income gap is less, more people lead better lives. Any step to Reduce the Gap moves us in the direction we want to go.

Unions can highlight the need to Reduce the Gap by making it an issue in their public bargaining.  They can make it an issue by asking for caps and reductions on wages and salaries and the eliminations of bonuses of high-end (non-union) earners in the companies where they have contracts.

More generally, a successful effort to restructure the tax system, adding additional high-tax brackets for high-end earners, would make funds available for society to do what you say: ensure that no one goes without.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

As I said, Grandpa_Bill, I think that a campaign to reduce salaries from $16 million to $1.6 million is a gigantic diversion away from what unions need to do for workers and for all of society. Likewise for the view that restructuring the tax system is any kind of priority. We'll have to disagree on this one, I guess.

 


Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

Unionist wrote:

We'll have to disagree on this one, I guess.

 

Reasonable men and women can and do disagree on how best to move the social justice agenda forward.  With respect to the importance of income equality in all of this, you aren't disagreeing with me, but with 40 years of research results that associate equality with a dozen or more markers of societal health and well-being.  C'est la vie!

An interesting discussion.  Many thanks for taking an old man seriously.


Grandpa_Bill
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Unionist wrote:

We'll have to disagree on this one, I guess.

 

Reasonable men and women can and do disagree on how best to move the social justice agenda forward.  With respect to the importance of income equality in all of this, you aren't disagreeing with me, but with 40 years of research results that associate equality with a dozen or more markers of societal health and well-being.  C'est la vie!

An interesting discussion.  Many thanks for taking an old man seriously.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Grandpa_Bill wrote:
Many thanks for taking an old man seriously.

Likewise. Laughing

And no, I don't think we're really disagreeing too fundamentally about anything.

 


epaulo13
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Joined: Dec 13 2009
Now is the time to change status quo, labour experts say


Conference and new website kick off CAW/CEP union talks

quote:

“Union renewal and labor movement revitalization will remain fragmented and ineffective without a coordinated approach and a common vision and agenda,” he said. “This is an opportune time to reflect on current state and future prospects. There is clear opportunity for unions in the present moment.”

John Cartwright and Lana Payne echoed those sentiments. “Most importantly you are saying the status quo is no longer OK and we’re going to do something about it,” added Payne.

Cartwright stressed the need “to go back to the grass roots to find the strength to prevail against powerful corporations and their political servants. We do that best by looking to our roots – the patient, tough, sustained work that was done by those who first built our unions. Those future conversations at kitchen tables – about the kind of future we want for our families, our neighbours and our world – will be the key to our success in the 21st century.”...


Grandpa_Bill
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Joined: Apr 25 2009

Good to see the subject of this thread back in the news today--or at least back in Walkom's column in the Star:

Walkom:  From CAW and CEP comes a new (old) idea to rebuild unions

Walkom wrote:

Unions got their start in [the 19th century] by offering members tangible benefits, ranging from burial insurance to summer camp for the kids.

The CEP-CAW scheme echoes this with its suggestion of letting those outside of traditional bargaining units participate in union-sponsored benefit plans.

. . . .

And the idea of unifying workers as a class is as old as the labour movement itself, dating back to the radical Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, and Canada's short-lived One Big Union.

That labour is even talking about such things is a great step forward. Thanks to outsourcing, the factory model of work, on which the modern union movement was built, is virtually finished in North America.

It's no surprise that the two protagonists in this effort come from factory-style industries in decline.

What's that old saw about Necessity:  the Mother of Invention.  Whatever, eh?!

 


peterjcassidy
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Joined: Apr 27 2001

Interesting discussion here, though maybe a separate thread might be opened on  negotiating goods and services being provided free of charge or cheaper. starting with food.

There is discussion going on in Ontario about  there being no reason school cafeterias should not be providing cheap, nutritous and tasty food for students,   What about expanding free  breakfast and lunch programs for the "poor" to universal programs?   I once spent a university semester in residence, where food vouchers reedemable at the on campus cafeteria were included in the residence fee .  Are not the Quebec students negotiating student fees and the cost and profit of university administration includeingresidences and school cafeterias?  It makes perfect sense in the 21st century "knowlege economy" to move toward free public education at the post -secondary level, that  could and should include free or cheap food and housing, as well as  texbooks athletic and other costs secondary to tuition .

 Then, where and what  do teachers and staff eat in our schools-  are custodians and vice principals and universtiy profs expected to pack peanut butter and jam sandwichs to eat in the staff lunch room or are they expected to dine at the local restaurants?  Do the workers and their unions not  negotiate  access to facilities for eating and the type and  cost of food?  What about doctors, nurses, hospital workers, do they eat the same food as the patients and the pateitns visitors, dining in the hospital cafeteria or do they have their own private facilites, subject to negotiaton ? When I was a proud member of CUPW at Terminal A Toronto,  our cafeteria, used by thousands of us over 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,  was subsidized ,so not only our meals but coffee and donuts on a break were cheaper and easier to access than walking out of the building to local restaurants. made sense for the workers and the empoyer. Not just public secotr workers but many private sector workers in asembly lines, in  the isolated resouce extraction firms or high tech "knowlede economy" businesses of the CAW and CEP , have to be concerned and have to negotiate the time for meals and breaks and  facilites and food services.

We have long moved past the point where the food we eat is a private affair- where waht we eat was grown on  the local family farm, bought at the local grocer and cooked and served by the "stay at home mom'  to the hungry hubbie home from work and the kids home from school  at 6:00 PM sharp... People eat at  work, at achool, at social events, at restaurants and food courts,  they buy take-out food and have food delivered .  Even the most basic food onsumed at home - bread and  milk -  is processed  by large enterprises for mass consumption with virtually every step, from the planting ot the gene modified wheat and the breeding of the cow, through the mass processing facilities  where the chemicals are added  and the exact nurtional composition of every ounce is fine tuned , is buject to public regulation and inspection.and negotiaon.

Yes we should have collective discussion and decision making  about food security  and food supply and cost  .The union movement has been and can be one of the major partners in the negotiations

Solidarite.

 

Wilf Day wrote:

Unionist wrote:

. . . we should keep increasing the scope of necessary goods and services that are provided free of charge (or very cheap) by society as a whole. We've already made great strides with health care and K-12 education. We should go much further (pharmaceuticals, dental care, post-secondary tuition and living expenses, etc.).

Agreed.

Unionist wrote:

And then we should do likewise with social housing, public child care, etc. etc. Ultimately, people won't need as much income - because they won't have big charges to pay at the store or on their credit card.

Umm, what does "etc. etc." mean? Food and clothes to the extent covered by your ration coupons, as during the second world war? It could be done, but I'm not sure who wants to have line-ups and ration books at the department stores, Soviet-style.

Free child care? Does any country have that? Again, it could be done, but are you serious?

Social housing for the 99%? Really?


genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

I've been mulling this merger proposal over in my head pretty much since it came out, and I have a few half-formed thoughts.

First off, M. Spector is right that the merger is more of a sign of weakness than of strength.  It seems pretty clear that because of loss of employment in their core sectors (especially among guys making $30 an hour whose dues go further to financially support the union), both the CAW and CEP are likely facing financial issues and the merger seems to be a last ditch effort to stave off bleeding to death.

Secondly, the position paper itself has some concerning proposals in it.  It seems to be going in the direction of trying to slash overhead through centralization - such as moving towards mega-locals - and trying to use the savings for whatever purpose the enlightened leadership sees best.

In short, some of the things in the position paper seem to be pointing towards the SEIU model of business unionism.

My view is that to truly revitalize the Canadian labour movement, it needs to be done from below and it needs to be done according to truly democratic lines.  Otherwise, we're just fiddling with budgets and our own bureaucratic structures, dog-paddling against the tide.

As an analogy, just look at the difference the participatory, militant, democratic student unionism of (CL)ASSE makes when compared to the bureaucratic, centralized student unionism of the CFS.

I'm glad that some interesting things are being discussed, such as the idea of letting workers join even if they aren't under contract (although I'm not sure how it will be done, and I am concerned that any effort on that front will end up as simply a scheme to sell insurance).  However, I think we need to keep two things in mind:

1. Mergers aren't a magic bullet.  It didn't work in Australia.

2. There is no alternative to working to revitalize the labour movement from below.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Fascists love it when labour unions are divided and weakened as they are today while corporate mega-mergers result in increasing assaults on labour rights. Fascists tend to attack labour and unions as a first order of their undemocratic agenda. And they don't like national student unions and esp. not ones that support the largest opposition party ever elected to oppose a phony-majority government in Ottawa. Fascists and political conservatives alike share a hatred of labour, free labour markets, and a disdain for democracy in general.


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