Unifor sets out long-term strategy at their convention

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Check out a Storify.com version of this story here. For live updates from convention, follow @rabbleca on Twitter. H.G. Watson is reporting from Toronto for the weekend.

With the business of officially forming the union out of the way, day two of the Unifor convention focused on defining Unifor going forward, with the help of some high profile speakers.

Author and activist Naomi Klein started things off, challenging the national executive board and delegates to make climate change a priority cause. "Climate change is not an 'issue' for you to add to the list of things to worry about it," she told delegates. "It is a civilization wake up call."

Klein pointedly ended her speech by reading Unifor's constitutional goals back to the audience, noting that she would only add one thing. "Don't say it if you don't mean it."

Comedian Mary Walsh also made an appearance in character as Marg Delahunty, roasting outgoing CAW President Ken Lewenza, CEP President Dave Coles and new Unifor president Jerry Dias.

Lastly, MP Olivia Chow made a short surprise appearance in the afternoon. Although she has yet to announce if she plans on running for the mayoral seat in Toronto, Dias made it abundantly clear that he supports her if she does.

The choice of speakers set the tone for an afternoon that saw Unifor leadership official unveil two of their cornerstone campaigns: a massive organizing drive and the introduction of community chapters.

Ten million dollars earmarked to organize new members will go towards initiatives like the creation of a national organizing office with presence in Quebec and specialist organizers. However, presenters continually emphasized that everyone in Unifor is now an organizer, encouraging delegates to promote the benefits of unionization everywhere. Members might only symbolically be organizers, but all their union dues will go towards practical union organizing efforts.

It was clear throughout the weekend that Unifor's organizing efforts are going to be focused primarily on one group: young people. Speeches throughout both days mentioned the frustration of young workers. And with many so called Millenials entering industries that don't have high union concentration, Unifor is eager to make in roads into an untapped demographic.

The community chapters effort appears to be their biggest move in doing so. Unlike the traditionally formed chapters, community chapters can be formed by workers who work in similar fields but who do not have a traditional office workplace. Roxanne Dubois, former president of the Canadian Federation of Students, presented the visioning paper on community chapters and explained that the idea was inspired in part by the Canadian Freelance Union, which organizes freelance writers throughout the country.

Tomorrow, we continue our coverage at the Toronto Labour Day parade!

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.