From 1995 to 2000, Carol Wall was a National Representative for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) and became its first human rights director. In 2002, she was elected CLC Vice President representing Workers of Colour. She is also a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and has served on the boards of several non-for-profit organizations.

Carol took time this week to answer some questions about her experiences in the trade union movement, its challenges, and what it needs to do in order to rebuild its membership and gain greater influence among working Canadians as she challenges for the role of President of the CLC..

Sean Cain: What made you decide to run for President of the Canadian Labour Congress?

Carol Wall: I was frustrated with the lack of visibility of the Canadian Labour Congress. Increasingly, activists have been questioning the relevance of the CLC. I believe that the single-minded focus on back room lobbying has been to our detriment. Lobbying government is important but we need to mobilize our members if we want to be a force for change in society. I am the kind of leader who brings people together and can motivate them to take action.

SC: You have been an activist within the trade union movement for more than two decades. How have these experiences prepared you for leading the labour movement in Canada?

CW: I can create an environment where differing views can be heard and I know how to bring people to consensus. I listen with an open mind to all the voices within our movement. My experience as a negotiator, facilitator and organizer has given me the skills I need to know when we need quiet diplomacy and when it is time to take a strong and militant stand.

SC: Over the past few years we have seen a disturbing trend: some union leaders have made concessions to corporate bosses against the will of their own membership. As president of the CLC, how will you help reverse this tendency and make unions truly class-conscious organizations that are democratic, egalitarian and controlled by the grassroots?

CW: Under my leadership, CLC Executive Council meetings would be strategy sessions where affiliates, labour councils and federations of labour would work out a collective strategy that adheres to the policy on âeoeno concession bargainingâe that is already on the books for the CLC. For example, if employers decide that they are going to go after our pensions, we all could agree that becomes a strike issue at every bargaining table. That would give us the economic clout that we need and employers would feel the impact of our collective strength and know that we are ready and able to take them on.

SC: You have spoken about the importance of the equity agenda inside trade unions. What steps must the labour movement take to better struggle for the rights of women, people of colour, youth, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered peoples, Aboriginals, and persons with special needs?

CW: The CLC must look at its structures to see where there are barriers to the full participation of equity seeking groups at all levels of the organization and develop (and follow through on) an action plan to eliminate those barriers. We also need to give the CLC Equity VPs a stronger role within the CLC and the resources to carry out their mandates.

SC: You have also discussed the significance of working with community and activist groups in the struggle for social justice, international peace and human rights. As president of the CLC, what steps will you take to build stronger coalitions with these organizations to better fight for these issues?

CW: We need to build sustainable, strong, meaningful and respectful relationships with coalition partners, community groups and social allies. Together, we must define what our relationship should be and how we will work together. Our coalition partners must be true partners and integrated in the work we do, which means taking an active role at Executive Council and within committees.

SC: Many in the labour movement are concerned with the decline of union density within Canada over the past 15 years. How can this trend be reversed, and what strategies can the labour movement use to rebuild the membership throughout the country?

CW: We need to work with affiliates to develop an organizational strategy, with a clear action plan. We must ensure that workers from equity seeking groups and young workers can see themselves reflected in the work that we do and that they know that this is a movement that belongs to all of us. Finally, to attract more members, the CLC must become a truly democratic, transparent organization and, as CLC President, I am committed to making that happen.