Exclusive: New CLC President Hassan Yussuff is ready to go

In front of a room of thousands of people, Hassan Yussuff is as loud and forceful as any trade unionist.

But in person, the new president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is a soft-spoken leader who doles out hugs as he says goodbye to friends and colleagues. During his first speech to CLC staff after the convention, they gathered around on the stage in the hall to hear him.

"It was good," said Yussuff, just moments after his speech as he walked off the stage.

He almost didn't make a speech at all. On Thursday, Yussuff defeated incumbent President Ken Georgetti by just 40 votes, an indication of how tough an election it was. Almost 5,000 people came to vote, and the room was divided by pennants -- orange for Georgetti, blue for Yussuff.

"I was thrilled," he said of his win. "I enjoy and love this organization dearly and the opportunity that has been given to me to lead the Congress is unprecedented."

In the process Yussuff made history, as the first person of colour to ever become President of the CLC, and the first person to ever defeat a sitting president in a CLC election.

For all the campaigning, Yussuff does not see the election results as a divide in the labour movement.

"It represents people exercising their prerogative to choose one of us," he said.

"I don't think a single affiliate left this hall yesterday feeling that somehow I will not be their President," he added.

There's no time for rest after running a hard campaign, however. Just that morning, Tim Hudak announced that he would cut 100,000 jobs from the public sector if he wins the Ontario election on June 12.

"Our approach is to do everything we can to make sure to make sure he does not become the next premier of the province of Ontario," Yussuff said. He explained that he'll be working with affiliates on the ground to mobilize voters against the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

Indeed, Yussuff was already on the move, heading out of the convention to get back to the CLC office -- and thinking about his next steps.

"I want to be on the ground with the activists to start mobilizing and engaging them in the fight back," he said.

"My job is to motivate them to say, 'lets start to get ourselves organized,' and understand how we can fight smart."

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