Unifor is Canada's largest private sector union with over 315,000 members. It's also a very young union. Just five years old, Unifor was formed through a merger of two unions -- the Canadian Autoworkers Union and the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
Today's guest on rabble radio helped make that merger happen. Fred Wilson played a key organizing and planning role in the New Union Project, which culminated in the creation of Unifor. He was the director of strategic planning for Unifor during its first three years. He's written a book, released this week, which documents the first five years in the life of Unifor. It's called A New Kind of Union: Unifor and the Birth of the Modern Canadian Union, published by James Lorimer and Company.
The official publicity for the book on the James Lorimer website says "Unifor has been a source of optimism and inspiration that unions can adapt to changing times and be a relevant voice for workers in twenty-first century workplaces, and in politics. But to do that, Unifor had to be a new kind of union that would act differently."
And act differently, it has. It has also developed a reputation as an outlier, taking some controversial positions and actions which have raised the ire of others in the Canadian union movement, most notably, its disaffiliation with the Canadian Labour Congress in 2018. And in the book, Fred doesn't shy away from discussing these controversies and the events which led up to the split, as well as other ways that Unifor is "a new kind of union."
Victoria Fenner, rabble's executive producer of podcasts talked to Fred Wilson by skype on Tuesday while he was at the Unifor Family Education Centre on the shores of Lake Huron.
To get a fuller picture of the events which preceded and precipitated the split from the Canadian Labour Congress, there are some articles on rabble you can read, including a blog post by John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council called An Open Letter to Our Movement, dated January 30, 2018. David Climenhaga also wrote Canadian Labour Movement Abuzz in Wake of Unifor Decision to Quit the Canadian Labour Congress. You can also check out an article in Briar Patch by Larry Savage, chair and professor in the department of labour studies at Brock University called Making Sense of the Unifor CLC Split, dated January 18, 2018.
There are also many other articles all expressing different opinions and perspectives on the CLC split which you can read online. We mention this because it was a signature event which rocked the union movement and to which there are many opinions and interpretations to explore further.
Image: from A New Kind of Union. Photo provided by James Lorimer and Company.
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