We are one step closer to a bold new vision for Canada's labour movement. But even more important, we are one step closer to the dream of a more equitable and fair Canada.
Delegates to the CEP convention this week in Québec City voted in favour of forming a new union with the CAW. The CAW voted in favour of the project in August.
Yet unnamed, this new union will represent more than 300,000 workers in every province of the country, in 22 different major economic sectors. It will be the largest private sector union in Canada, but it will also represent thousands of workers who provide public services.
This new union sends a clear message that labour is ready to do what is necessary to take on governments and employers who would like nothing better than to see us disappear. It is the first step in the realization of the goal of revitalizing Canada's union movement. And that is a necessary step in turning back the tide of neoconservative reaction that has seen ever more wealth and power for the already rich and powerful, but stagnation and cutbacks for the rest of us.
Why should ordinary Canadians care about this new union?
They should care because strong unions have been at the core of movements that demanded and won pubic healthcare, pensions, unemployment insurance, childcare, workers compensation, pay equity, health and safety legislation, shorter workweeks, and just about every progressive social service.
As legislation and cherished social programs that benefit ordinary Canadians come under attack by ideologies of greed and corporations that demand ever more profit, a revitalized labour movement is exactly what we need.
They should care because our goal is nothing less than reshaping the economic and political systems of this country.
The new union will be well suited to take on today's challenges, particularly around the growing precariousness of employment. It will offer a home and a voice to the unemployed and partially employed.
This new union will be well suited to take on the challenges of a greying population and the attacks on our pension system. It will offer a home and a voice to the ever-growing number of pensioners.
This new union will be well suited to take on the challenges of unsustainable economic development that threatens our environment and the very future of our planet. It will offer a home and voice for workers, the unemployed and retired Canadians who care about our environment and want to build a sustainable economy. We will work side by side with environmentalists in a blue-green alliance.
This new union will be well suited to take on the challenges of working people in every sector of the economy. Because of our size, experience and geographic spread we will offer a home and a voice to every worker who wants justice and fair treatment in her or his workplace.
Our plan is to pool the resources from 300,000 current members and to use at least 10 per cent of our dues every year to help all those who need a union gain the benefits of collective bargaining. Our motto will be: What we desire for ourselves we wish for everyone. And we will work diligently to make that more than mere words.
Right from the start we have tried to make the process of creating this new union as open and transparent as possible. We have to do that because a union is nothing more than the collective strength of its membership.
But, we hope to work on behalf of an even larger group than our current members. We plan to work on behalf of all Canadians who share the vision of a fairer, more just, more sustainable Canada.
To do that we commit to keeping the public informed as well as our members. We will be seeking input and advice from a wide variety of organizations and individuals.
Our future is at stake.
Dave Coles is the National President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).
Photo: John Maclennan