New union looking to grow
TORONTO—Canada’s newest union has a few ideas on how to expand it’s already sizable membership even during turbulent times for the labour movement.
The Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada merged this weekend to form a new group called Unifor.
This comes at a time when labour feels it is under attack—a point that was made forcefully at the Unifor convention.
“There is no doubt that the union moment in the private sector is on it’s heels; it has been in retreat for some years now,” said Nelson Wiseman, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto.
Wiseman said when unions were created in Canada, they were organized around individual sectors of the workforce.
Now many unions are a combination of multiple sectors.
“It is a sign of their weakening power that they have to combine,” noted Wiseman, pointing to declining membership rates in Canadian unions.
An early test for the new union could come this fall when Bill-C377, a private member’s bill that would force unions to file financial statements and making public any expenses over $5,000, along with the salaries of their employees making more than $100,000, again will be debated on Parliament Hill.
“The Conservative government has decided to challenge our democratic right to organize and collect dues,” newly-elected Unifor president Jerry Dias said in his acceptance speech Saturday.
“They are singling out unions. They’re attacking our finances,” he charged.
“They’re attacking our ability to represent our members.”
A spokesman for Labour minister Kellie Leitch said the minister has contacted Dias to congratulate him and discuss ways of working together to improve job opportunities.
Unifor official Fred Wilson has been sitting on the membership expansion working group at the conference.
“The most significant thing about Unifor’s membership drive is our conventional organizing capacity, which will be formidable,” said Wilson.
The union will be setting aside a 10th of its budget for projects like workplace sign-up drives and footing legal bills for groups in Canada trying to unionize.
“By allocating 10 percent of our total revenue to organizing means that we will have approximately $10 million for organizing,” noted Wilson.
“That is very large war chest for a Canadian union.”