Keynote speaker Nancy MacLean addressed the Unifor 2019 Convention and shared her research into the political maneuvering of the super-rich, and the tactics they use to undermine workers across the United States and Canada.
In her book Democracy in Chains, she takes readers behind the scenes of today’s political establishment – led by billionaires – and reveals their decades-long strategy to change the rules of democracy itself in their favour. She outlined key points of her book to delegates and highlighted the role of unions such as Unifor in fighting back.
“When future historians look back on this moment 50 years from now and try to make sense of it, I don’t think they will focus on Donald Trump the way most journalists are now,” said MacLean. “I think they will be much more interested in a quiet transformation underway that this president’s conduct distracts our attention from.”
In describing this ‘quiet transformation’, MacLean emphasized that it is not yet complete. Their endgame would mean citizens would be left to fend for themselves and, of course, those who don’t fare well would be left without government benefits and protections.
MacLean quoted leaders of this far-right ideology as saying they aim to create a system of winners and losers where even the quality of water “might not be what citizens are used to” and where “partial shantytowns” would satisfy the need for cheaper housing as wage inequality grows and government shrinks.
MacLean urged that progressive voices must work together, preserve our public services, and fight for our rights and the gains we’ve made over many decades of principled work.
“One lesson we can draw is not to let ourselves get distracted by the daily circus, which is often quite intentional,” she said. “We need to work on democracy beyond elections – on year-round involvement of the people in our workplaces, schools, communities and governments at all levels.”
MacLean left delegates with hope and even evoked the convention theme, telling delegates that we must do “whatever it takes” to win and reform democracy to save it.
No government can claim to be standing up for average Canadians if it is not willing to work with unions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his address to Unifor’s Constitutional Convention today.
“The labour movement deserves fairness, not a government that sees it as an enemy,” Trudeau said.
“When Andrew Scheer spoke at a labour event in Ottawa recently, he couldn’t even say the word union. Canadians serve better. We all deserve better.”
This is not the first time Trudeau has spoken at a Unifor Convention. Three years ago, he pledged to delegates at the convention in Ottawa that his new government would work with Unifor and other unions to improve the lives of working Canadians.
“To have a strong middle class, you have to have strong unions.”
Soon after coming to power, Trudeau’s Liberals repealed the anti-union legislation brought in by the previous Stephen Harper Conservatives. When the North American Free Trade Agreement came up for renegotiation, Unifor played an active role.
“Millions of families were counting on us to get the new NAFTA right, and together we put the interests of Canadian workers at the very heart of our negotiating strategy,” he said.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias was a consultant to the Canadian negotiating team throughout the talks, which resulted in significant improvements to worker protections than those established in the original deal, including a requirement for major changes to Mexican labour laws.
“In other words, we created a new standard,” Trudeau said. “That, my friends, is the power of solidarity. That is the power of putting people first.”
Trudeau said the labour movement has a long history of standing up for fair wages, reasonable working hours, and safe workplaces and for women, LGBTQ workers, disabled workers and for Indigenous communities.
“You can continue to count on our government,” Trudeau said. “We know the only way we will make real progress is by investing in people – not by cutting services.”
The labour movement is vital to that effort, Trudeau said.
Toronto – August 16, 2019 – Calling all UFCW Canada activists and allies: your urgent support is needed to help stop the union-busting tactics of global meat giant Cargill, who is punishing workers for expressing their democratic right to join a union.
The “alarming but not surprising” survey reveals physical violence, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment, poor staffing levels, and inadequate management support.
"The Wettlaufer killings of 8 residents in Ontario long-term care have thrown light on the inadequate care being provided to elderly residents in these facilities. Our elderly and infirm people deserve better; profit should not be dictating staffing levels and quality of care.”— Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Toronto – August 15, 2019 – UFCW Canada's ground-breaking online education program, webCampus, has launched four new labour studies courses that can help you conduct effective meetings and investigations, get involved in activism, and be more inclusive at work and in your community.
Members of Local 1103 voted 92.5% in favour of their new collective agreement at a union meeting held on August 4, 2019.
The following are the main highlights of the agreement:
- Across-the-board salary increase of 2 per cent per year;
- Wage adjustment for several positions;
- Employer’s portion of group insurance premium increased to 70 per cent and employees’ portion reduced to 30 percent (instead of 50-50);
- Starting rate increased by 9.5 percent;
- Addition of one year for each block of vacation and reinstatement of a 6th week of vacation;
- Wage rate guaranteed at all times;
- Reinforcement of clauses for the training committee and prevention representative;
- Hour bank increased to 80 hours instead of 40 hours;
- Increase in evening, night, trainer and group lead premiums;
- Increase in the amount paid annually into the Paid Education Leave program.
De Luxe Paper Products Inc. makes specialized packaging for use mainly in the food industry. The plant employs 70 Unifor members.
On August 10, hundreds of members of Unifor Locals 222, 444, and 1090 as well as members of the general public, gathered at Memorial Park in Oshawa for a rally and picnic in solidarity with independent auto parts supplier workers facing plant closures and ongoing negotiations of restructuring agreements.
The family-friendly event featured live music, entertainment, and a public address from Unifor Local 222 President Colin James, Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi, Oshawa Member of Provincial Parliament Jennifer French, and Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley.
“This rally brought together Unifor members, elected officials, and the public in solidarity with the 1,700 women and men who deserve fair and just severance for their years of hard work and sacrifice,” said Colin James, Unifor Local 222 President. “All of us need to come together and stay strong as we use every tool available to us to get the best possible deal for auto parts supplier workers.”
The announced closure of the assembly line at General Motors Oshawa has meant thousands of additional auto parts workers and support staff are facing job losses. The rally helped draw attention to the uphill battle faced by Oshawa workers as Unifor continues to pressure employers to fund a just transition to new employment including enhanced severance agreements, extensions to heath plans, and employer contributions to an adjustment centre.
“More than anything, we want all the independent parts supplier workers to know that through your resiliency you have become an inspiration to all workers across Ontario,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director, addressing the rally’s attendees. “You took the fight in to the streets and because of that you have been a motivation and provided encouragement for all Unifor members facing similar circumstances.”
Since the auto parts supplier park and feeder plants for General Motors Oshawa was created, Unifor estimates it saved the company more than $2.7 million in annual operating costs each year. Efforts to pressure parts supplier companies and General Motors to provide workers with fair compensation are ongoing, however, greater efforts by the provincial and federal government are needed to prevent further closures in the near future.
“We’ve been trying to convince the provincial and federal governments that the bleeding has to stop,” said Chris Buckley, former Unifor Local 222 President and President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. “This community was built on strong, good paying manufacturing jobs and we have been bleeding and bleeding for far too long. Our governments have a moral obligation to protect workers’ jobs.”
Unifor will continue to use every option available to negotiate the best possible deal with independent parts supplier companies so that workers are given fair compensation. As well, Unifor will continue to pressure governments at all levels to create an automotive and parts supplier industrial strategy that will prevent future manufacturing job losses as multinational corporations continue to receive generous public subsidies while moving jobs to low-wage jurisdictions.
View photos from the auto parks worker solidarity rally and picnic on Facebook here.