New Union Process Kicks Off With Weekend Sessions in Toronto: Leaders, activists, and staff members from the CEP and the CAW have completed their first set of formal meetings in Toronto February 24-27, kicking off their process to investigate the potential of forming a new Canadian union. These meetings will be followed by further meetings and consultations, as outlined in the unions’ recently agreed ‘Process Protocol’, culminating with reports and recommendations made to their respective union conventions in August (CAW) and October (CEP) of this year. On February 24 both unions held special meetings for their staff representatives to brief them on the process, followed by a special joint staff meeting. February 25 featured a one-day workshop on union renewal and innovation, involving some 75 national and local leaders and staff from both unions, to consider several ideas regarding new structures and practices which the new union might incorporate.
The workshop was addressed by speakers from other unions and from academia, sharing experience and research regarding innovative union practices. The staff meetings and the workshop were marked by a very positive energy. Participants expressed strong hope that a new, larger union would boost the labour movement, enhancing its capacity to defend and make progress for working Canadians in the face of the unprecedented business domination of our economy and culture.
Following those preliminary activities, the two-union Proposal Committee held an initial two-day session, February 26-27. That meeting began by reviewing a detailed comparison of existing CEP and CAW membership, structures, finances, and practices. The members of the Proposal Committee (consisting of eight leaders from each union, co-chaired by the two unions’ Secretary-Treasurers; see list below) also developed a work plan for the coming months, involving further meetings and consultations addressing specific topics and issues.
The Proposal Committee saw that a new union including both the CAW and the CEP would constitute an impressive national organization. The new union would represent over 300,000 members, with significant concentrations in every province, and composing a critical mass of labour strength in numerous crucial sectors of the economy (including automotive, energy, communications, transportation, forestry and paper, manufacturing, health care and public services, media, resources, and more).
The Proposal Committee will consider the possibilities and prospects of a new union, and then make a recommendation to the two upcoming conventions. It is only those conventions which can approve the next step of moving ahead to form a new organization. However, the Proposal Committee agreed at its initial session that if a new union was formed, it would require a new name, and that name should reflect the union’s visions and values (rather than consisting of a listing of the various sectors where its members work). Future discussions will consider possible processes, including input from members, through which a new name could be chosen should the two conventions endorse the concept.
The next meeting of the Proposal Committee will be held in Ottawa March 15-17. Both unions have agreed that the new union process will be highly transparent; regular reports and information will be communicated to members and the public, including through a new joint website which the unions will launch in mid-March.
For further information on the new union process, please contact Gaétan Ménard (CEP Secretary-Treasurer) or Peter Kennedy (CAW Secretary-Treasurer), the co-chairs of the Proposal Committee.