Across Canada this week, Unifor members are packing their suitcases and checking their travel plans for Quebec City to attend Unifor’s third convention since our founding six years ago.
This is union democracy in action, and it is the basis of all we do.
Convention delegates will vote on everything from policy proposals, national union budgets to electing the leadership of the organization – including my own run for re-election to a third term as National President.
Delegates are elected by their local unions, making the five-day Monday-to-Friday meeting a democratic reflection of the wishes of members from across Canada. There will also be livestreaming of much of the convention on Facebook and live tweeting throughout – enabling anyone to follow the important work being done.
We have several high-profile speakers reflecting Unifor’s priorities and place in Canada and the world – including Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, and members of Canada’s women’s hockey team to talk about equity in sport.
We’ll also review our plans to organize more workers into the labour movement, bargaining strategies for workers in contract talks, plans for the coming federal election and more. By raising these issues and debating them with delegates, we are doing the work needed to make Unifor a member-driven union.
I’m not saying we’re perfect. No organization is, because times and circumstances change – and every organization must evolve to match that.
To do that, Unifor delegates will be looking at dozens of resolutions to guide our future actions, as well as constitutional amendments to make sure Unifor’s day-to-day operating principles are up to date and best reflect the wishes of the membership.
Some people, however, refuse to understand that.
When a woman was caught on video this week spewing racist ideology while holding a “Vote Andrew Scheer” sign, Catherine Swift (former Chair of the Board of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business) tried to implicate Unifor in the controversy – tweeting with no merit whatsoever that maybe we had put the woman up to it to embarrass federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
Swift and other Tory supporters need to recognize that such people are naturally attracted to Scheer’s Conservatives. This country’s racists, pro-lifers, homophobes and Islamophobes have heard the dog whistles put out by Scheer and are running to his party.
You can’t play footsie with the Canadian Yellow Vests, Faith Goldie and anti-choice activists and then pretend to be offended when they openly support you.
If you’re reading this, Andrew Scheer, that’s the only advice you’ll get from me this election.
Scheer himself has tried to attack Unifor by criticizing our involvement in the federal media panel that will recommend the eight members of a second independent panel, which in turn will review funding applications from news organization.
Never mind that he deliberately and repeatedly misrepresents our role (Unifor will have no say over who gets the funding). Never mind that he has ignored numerous invitations from Unifor’s Media Council Chair to discuss the matter.
The real issue is that Scheer seems to only have an issue with Unifor’s participation in the panel, but has no problem with all the corporate representation on the same panel.
In other words, the only group Scheer thinks does not deserve to be heard is the workers in the media sector, as represented by their union.
Workers gain a voice in their workplace and in their industry through their union. They have a voice in their union through meetings such as next week’s convention.
People like Scheer and Swift refuse to recognize this. By objecting to workers having a voice while saying nothing about powerful corporations being on the media panel, Scheer is showing his true colours – and that should serve as a warning to all workers.
One of the most important things we will discuss next week in Quebec City is our preparations for the fall federal election.
This will be an important election. Scheer will try to pretend that he has nothing to do with the right-wing radicals who are naturally attracted to him. He’ll present himself as a regular working stiff – despite having never held a job outside of politics.
The fact is that Scheer is no friend of working people – and coming out of our convention in Quebec City, Unifor will be there to remind voters of that every step of the way.