For the first time in almost ten years, there's a race for the leadership of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
Veteran Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) negotiator Hassan Husseini revealed to rabble.ca today that he will challenge Ken Georgetti for the president's position at the CLC convention this May.
"Change is desperately needed at the top level of the CLC," Husseini said. "There is an absolute necessity for new blood, for new leadership and new vision for the labour movement. I can certainly provide that."
Georgetti has been president of the CLC since 1999. The last time someone challenged him was 2005, when Carol Wall -- who was also a PSAC negotiator -- ran against the former pipefitter. Georgetti defeated Wall with just over 60 per cent of the vote.
Husseini is running on the promise that he will take back the organization for workers. "We desperately need to build a grassroots movement that can stop the corporate agenda," he said.
Born in Lebanon in 1968 to a family that was already active in the labour movement, Husseini immigrated to Canada in the late 1980s where he became involved with student politics, which in turn led him to working with the Carleton University Students Association and the Ottawa-Carleton CUPE District Council.
Since then, Husseini has been very active in the Canadian labour movement. Prior to joining PSAC he acted as the CLC's national representative in the department of political action and campaigns. Presently, he has the distinction of being represented by two unions simultaneously -- as national negotiator for PSAC and a contract instructor for Carleton University, he is represented by Unifor and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, respectively.
No stranger to elections, Husseini ran in both federal and provincial elections in the Toronto riding of York South-Weston as a member of the Communist Party of Canada, which he left in 2003. These days, he considers himself a socialist and hopes that the public perception of the Communist Party will not draw focus away from his campaign, which is squarely focused on labour issues.
His vision for the CLC is a grounded organization that will help unify the labour movement while mounting a stronger defense to attacks on unions. Inspired in part by recent mass mobilizations like the student protests in Quebec, Husseini believes that the CLC has to equip local labour councils to organize both workers and communities to support their causes.
Husseini has already quietly started to build a group of supporters. Jawara Gairey, who is also a negotiator at PSAC, has been helping Husseini prepare for his campaign.
"I think it's refreshing, his stance about giving the CLC back to workers," said Gairey. "It's something that I believe needs to happen."
Gairey expressed frustration that some labour leaders become entrenched in their roles, creating a culture in which people accept them as the status quo.
Husseini is using the next month to campaign and help refine his platform. He'll be going on a cross-country tour to meet and talk with more workers.He has also launched a campaign website at takebackclc.ca.
"I certainly do not profess to have all the answers," he said. "But I think together we can come up with answers and we can come up with ways to build a grassroots workers movement."
The CLC was not able to provide comment on this story by press time. The presidential election will take place during the CLC convention May 5-9 in Montreal.
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