Unifor pulls out of the CLC

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Unionist wrote:

I'm trying hard to imagine what makes anyone believe that workers vote as their union leaders tell them to. That's not reality. 

Yes and no. Or true and false. 

In my experience the union I belong to tries to remind why we should vote for whom

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Unionist wrote:

I'm trying hard to imagine what makes anyone believe that workers vote as their union leaders tell them to. That's not reality. 

It seems to have had an effect in Ontario since 1996.  What else would explain the relatively high number of union members "strategically" voting Liberal since then, and continuing to do so even though none of the Liberal governments these votes have helped elect have in any significant way rewarded working-class Ontarians for their support?

Unionist

Ken Burch wrote:

Unionist wrote:

I'm trying hard to imagine what makes anyone believe that workers vote as their union leaders tell them to. That's not reality. 

It seems to have had an effect in Ontario since 1996.  What else would explain the relatively high number of union members "strategically" voting Liberal since then, and continuing to do so even though none of the Liberal governments these votes have helped elect have in any significant way rewarded working-class Ontarians for their support?

1. The abject betrayal of the Bob Rae government (abandoning promise for public auto insurance, tearing up collective agreements with public sector employees because the NDP "knew better" than mere stupid workers how to deal with the recession, failing to whip a vote on same-sex benefits thus allowing its own homophobic MPPs to defeat it, essentially saying "thanks workers for electing us" and then ignoring them or worse, etc.) - followed by the horrors of Mike Harris - must surely have persuaded many workers to try defeating Harris as job #1. And the first ever NDP government in Ontario didn't impress as being a viable alternative.

2. I voted "strategically" long before I ever heard that intellectualistic term, and I'm 100% sure many other workers do too. When there's no candidate or party on offer that inspires and thrills me, I have most often voted to avoid the worst one on offer. In Outremont federally, I'd vote Bloc, and since 2007 NDP, to kick the Liberal out, for example. Finally worked. To suggest that "strategic voting" is some devious plot by closet Liberal union bosses (which is usually the way it's presented by hyper-partisans on another side, be it NDP or Conservative), doesn't give workers much credit for intelligence or for following their own class interest.

3. Union leaders, indeed union federations, often decided to back a particular party, but show me the evidence that workers listen. Which Québec unions told their members to vote NDP federally in 2011? Or Liberal in 2015? Correct! None. The same holds true provincially, with perpetual appeals to support the PQ, perpetually falling flat. And likewise in Ontario and elsewhere.

4. I'm no expert, but I think the reason the ONDP appears to be on verge of getting many new votes is that people hate Wynne (not sure why, but I'm far from the scene), and many of those can't stomach the idea of Doug Ford. Not because they've suddenly fallen in love with Andrea Horwath and her promises. And definitely absolutely not because their union has told them to vote NDP, or strategically, or whatever. Plus, Bob Rae is ancient history to most.

I'm prepared to be convinced that any or all the above points are wrong. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

4. I'm no expert, but I think the reason the ONDP appears to be on verge of getting many new votes is that people hate Wynne (not sure why, but I'm far from the scene), and many of those can't stomach the idea of Doug Ford. Not because they've suddenly fallen in love with Andrea Horwath and her promises. And definitely absolutely not because their union has told them to vote NDP, or strategically, or whatever. Plus, Bob Rae is ancient history to most.

..i very much agree with this. except that i think i understand why they hate wynne.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Unionist wrote:

Ken Burch wrote:

Unionist wrote:

I'm trying hard to imagine what makes anyone believe that workers vote as their union leaders tell them to. That's not reality. 

It seems to have had an effect in Ontario since 1996.  What else would explain the relatively high number of union members "strategically" voting Liberal since then, and continuing to do so even though none of the Liberal governments these votes have helped elect have in any significant way rewarded working-class Ontarians for their support?

1. The abject betrayal of the Bob Rae government (abandoning promise for public auto insurance, tearing up collective agreements with public sector employees because the NDP "knew better" than mere stupid workers how to deal with the recession, failing to whip a vote on same-sex benefits thus allowing its own homophobic MPPs to defeat it, essentially saying "thanks workers for electing us" and then ignoring them or worse, etc.) - followed by the horrors of Mike Harris - must surely have persuaded many workers to try defeating Harris as job #1. And the first ever NDP government in Ontario didn't impress as being a viable alternative.

2. I voted "strategically" long before I ever heard that intellectualistic term, and I'm 100% sure many other workers do too. When there's no candidate or party on offer that inspires and thrills me, I have most often voted to avoid the worst one on offer. In Outremont federally, I'd vote Bloc, and since 2007 NDP, to kick the Liberal out, for example. Finally worked. To suggest that "strategic voting" is some devious plot by closet Liberal union bosses (which is usually the way it's presented by hyper-partisans on another side, be it NDP or Conservative), doesn't give workers much credit for intelligence or for following their own class interest.

3. Union leaders, indeed union federations, often decided to back a particular party, but show me the evidence that workers listen. Which Québec unions told their members to vote NDP federally in 2011? Or Liberal in 2015? Correct! None. The same holds true provincially, with perpetual appeals to support the PQ, perpetually falling flat. And likewise in Ontario and elsewhere.

4. I'm no expert, but I think the reason the ONDP appears to be on verge of getting many new votes is that people hate Wynne (not sure why, but I'm far from the scene), and many of those can't stomach the idea of Doug Ford. Not because they've suddenly fallen in love with Andrea Horwath and her promises. And definitely absolutely not because their union has told them to vote NDP, or strategically, or whatever. Plus, Bob Rae is ancient history to most.

I'm prepared to be convinced that any or all the above points are wrong. 

A lot of that is true...but I still wonder...would all of the extra union votes that went to the Liberals after 1996 have KEPT going to them during all of those elections where the Liberals came nowhere close to beating the Harris PC's  if it hadn't been for Buzz Hargrove endlessly doubling-down on "strategic voting"?  It would have made sense in '96 and maybe the FIRST time Harris' government ran for re-election, but all the way up to 2014?   

And obviously, U, I'm as aware as everybody else here that nobody tells YOU what to do(I'd have voted Bloc in Outremont in the years you did, too, had I lived there).

Pogo Pogo's picture

I think the endorsement will change few minds, but it will:

  1. Give a big moral boost to the campaign.
  2. Provide a talking point to the phone banks targetting union members.
  3. Probably provide some extra high quality workers to help get the vote out on E-Day.

lombardimax@hot...

I’m taking bets on how soon the CLC and Unifor will patch things up now that the Wynne Liberals are dinosaurs. There is however the obstacle of Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa threatening to continue the strategy of divide and conquer the labour movement.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

This sets up a real possibility that a left challenger could beat Dias for the UNIFOR leadership.  After all, a strong case can be made that Dias refusal to back down on "strategic voting", long after it was clear that there was no chance of keeping Wynne in power, not deviating from that tactic until the last days of the race when it was too late to make any real difference, at the very least made it impossible to hold the PC's short of a majority and may have prevented an ONDP victory.  Dias has to wear that, and has no possible case to make in support of his arrogant stubbornness on the issue.

progressive17 progressive17's picture

Wynne also hobbled the union and "working families coalition" and other 3rd party groups from advertising in the election. I think that may have had a bigger effect...

Mobo2000

Yes, what progressive17 said, the new provincial election rules around 3rd party spending are very onerous, and will limit unions' ability to support progressive candidates.

progressive17 progressive17's picture

Well, unions can still support progressive candidates, but that means getting willing union members to join campaigns, dial phones, knock on doors, etc.

Mobo2000

Yes indeed, and I do take Unionist's point earlier that many members do not care who their union is endorsing.   But the new rules also limit the ability of unions to get members to dial phones and knock on doors, as those activities, if organized through the union and/or paid for by the union are considered 3rd party spending.

progressive17 progressive17's picture

No, not paid for by the unions, but where individual union members go out and knock on doors and dial telephones on their own accord.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Canadian labour in crisis: the way forward

quote:

In this case, the expressed reasons for Unifor’s disaffiliation from the CLC are neither principled nor warranted. They do however expose some longstanding problems, including:

  • Contrary to popular belief, working class unity and solidarity is not the purpose of the CLC at this moment in our history. For CLC-affiliated unions today, affiliation is like taking out an anti-raiding insurance policy. Workers can freely change unions through a CLC process outlined in Article 4 of the Constitution, but when it became a barrier to Unifor’s unilateral actions to organize another union’s members, they deemed it broken.
  • Democracy is a term that is loosely defined, often used when it is convenient, and not necessarily a practice accorded the respect it deserves. Unifor contravened its own constitution and violated its own member’s democratic rights, while claiming to be defending the democratic rights of another union.
  • The international solidarity required among all working people and their organized forces is often applied opportunistically and rhetorically because it makes us feel good. Unifor used narrow nationalist jingoism and rhetoric against American- based unions as a ruse to enable raiding. Unions should be judged on their demonstrated commitment to a militant, democratic, class-based fightback against neo-liberalism in the streets and at the bargaining table, rather than on the location of their headquarters

quote:

Unifor is the focus here, but its actions are emblematic of the character of the entire trade union movement today. How do we find our way out of this mess?

In this instance, we need unity at the grassroots. It’s not enough however, to simply call for allowing Unifor locals to remain in the local labour councils and federations of labour. We should go farther and ensure we kick the doors wide open for all workers, unionized or not. If we are serious about building a class-based opposition to neoliberal austerity, groups that represent non-unionized workers — migrant workers’ groups, students, immigrant community organizations addressing workers’ issues and the unemployed, should fully participate in labour councils across the country.

Worker unity from below must be done based on class solidarity and should welcome into the fold all those who share that class interest. The basis of unity for labour bodies should be political not organizational. The current moment of struggle requires political unity of the labour movement as representative of the working class, not the interests of a select few at the top.

lombardimax@hot...

Has anyone heard any new developments in the Unifor-CLC split?

 

Unionist

lombardimax@hotmail.com wrote:

Has anyone heard any new developments in the Unifor-CLC split?

Good question. I've heard nothing, personally. I think that reflects the absence of leadership, inspiration, and mobilization that both organizations are currently offering Canadian workers. I wish there were a simpler and less depressing explanation.

lombardimax@hot...

The conflict seems to largely centre around Unifor’s national union perspective vs that of international (American based) unions like Steelworkers and UFCW. I’m curious how a Quebec national union might view this conflict. I suspect Québécois would have more sympathy with Unifor nationalists than with the US internationals.

lombardimax@hot...

As I recall, Unifor endorsed Bob Bratina — disturbing. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/steelworkers-1.5035960

ouroboros

lombardimax@hotmail.com wrote:

The conflict seems to largely centre around Unifor’s national union perspective vs that of international (American based) unions like Steelworkers and UFCW. I’m curious how a Quebec national union might view this conflict. I suspect Québécois would have more sympathy with Unifor nationalists than with the US internationals.

That is certainly how UNIFOR is spinning it. But given that UNIFOR is losing auto members left, right and centre they need more members. Easier, in theory, to raid over organizing. 

And they are back at it too https://www.uniteherelocal75.org/a-message-to-our-labour-movement-sister...

lombardimax@hot...

A few observations of this situation.

Firstly, it seems that CLC has unilaterally disarmed in the face of Unifor’s campaign to raid smaller unions with impunity.

Secondly, one of the missions of a labour confederation is for member unions to work together toward common goals, and not raid each other. Unifor has removed themselves from that agreement.

It must surely be time for unite-here and all the member unions of the CLC to pick and choose their own individual targets and to simultaneously carve  up Unifor sector by sector. Start a campaign of retaliatory raids until Unifor returns to the house of labour and to organizing the unorganized.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Instead of "raiding" maybe it is time to change the paradigm totally. Maybe the workers should be able to go union shopping easily. How about every five years any bargaining unit can change its union affiliation by a simple majority vote and be done with the whole concept. After a few years the whole idea of dirty fights for members might be a distant history from a dark past.

Unionist

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Instead of "raiding" maybe it is time to change the paradigm totally. Maybe the workers should be able to go union shopping easily. How about every five years any bargaining unit can change its union affiliation by a simple majority vote and be done with the whole concept. After a few years the whole idea of dirty fights for members might be a distant history from a dark past.

The labour law of every jurisdiction I can think of allows such a free simple majority vote right now - usually within a defined period prior to the expiry of the collective agreement. For example, the federal code allows for such applications and votes at least every 3 years, even where the term of the collective agreement is longer - see section 24(2).

"Raiding" is just a dirty word invented long ago to dissuade workers who are fed up with trying to reform their existing union.

The only thing preventing the scenario you're describing is the "no-raiding" pacts common within provincial federations or the CLC. Even there, there's supposed to be recourse for union members who are looking for a way out. Unifor claimed that that recourse wasn't working. He said she said.

The real problem isn't "raiding" or anything of the sort. It's the weakening of the union movement overall. So workers get embroiled in the wrong battles. Sad.

ouroboros

I generally agree with both Unionist and kropotkin1951. I think raiding is a big red herring in the movement. I joking say that I've never heard of a union that raids. Some "liberate" for sure but "we don't raid"

It happens fairly rarely in Canada but we waste a lot of time fighting over it. We need to have an honest talk about raiding but I doubt that is going to happen. When I talk to leaders about this, in private many agree but would never go out in public. Their activists would roast them alive if they did. Or at least that is what the leaders think.

I think the UNIFOR/UNITE case is a good one to look at. After the raids, not that many members went to UNIFOR and I hear that some of them are saying they want to move back to UNITE. That is my general experience in these cases. Members that are unhappy with union X will be equally unhappy with union y. After a couple of years, I think unions will learn that and stop accepting members from other unions in most cases.

All that said, I also think the UNIFOR raids is a good example of the CLC process more or less working, if people follow it. UNIFOR applied for justification, the CLC looked into it and found there wasn't any, that most of the noise from the local was from unhappy exec members. UNIFOR went ahead anyways and guess what? The bulk of the membership wasn't that unhappy with UNITE and UNIFOR lost most of the raids.

This case is complicated by the fact that UNIFOR had been getting on people's nerves lately. From how they are with the Liberals, to how they acted after their people won at the 2014 and 2017 CLC conventions, to how they generally started acting like God's gift to the movement. And their justification of the raids pissed alot of people off. This whole "union democracy" line as they kicked out union staff locals in BC for something those locals didn't even do and their bleating on about "international unions" for example. Had they just said "Yeah, we've heard members are unhappy with UNITE, we think we can do better" I think the lash back wouldn't have been as harsh. 

But the CLC process certainly isn't perfect. There are unions in the CLC that I don't think do a great job representing members. Not that many but a couple. Generally they are smaller or have smaller locals. It is hard for these members to follow the CLC process. It isn't really set up for units of 20 to 40 people. 

As for the labour movement's response to the UNIFOR raids, I think if the movement agrees raiding is bad, there should be a response. I think there are enough UNIFOR locals that aren't happy that a counter raid would be successful. But the affiliates of the CLC don't seem interested. They aren't scared of UNIFOR but feel time and money would be better spent getting new members or servicing the ones they have better. 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

"raiding" was a major issue in the labor movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Not sure how this played out in Canada, but in the States it was common for AFL craft-based unions to not only raid each other's memberships but to break each others' strikes.  This tendency, along with the AFL's insistence on organizing only skilled workers(and, at the time, usually only white, male "native-born Americans"), was one of the major factors which led to the creation of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905.

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