Tony Van Alphen
The Toronto Star
July 1, 2012
The two unions contemplating the biggest merger in Canadian labour history have moved significantly closer to reaching that goal. A special committee of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) announced Friday they have reached agreement on structure, principles and financing, and are unanimously recommending the formation of a new union to their respective boards.
“The whole process is something like climbing Mount Everest,” said committee co-chairman Peter Kennedy. “We’ve reached the first base camp. It’s a critical point.”
CAW and CEP leaders started discussing the formation of a new union late last year in an effort to become stronger and more relevant to workers as the labour movement struggles in difficult economic times. The CAW represents 195,000 members while the CEP has more than 110,000.
The executive boards of the two unions will consider the report and recommendation at meetings in early July. If they show support, delegates of the two unions will vote on it at separate conventions in August and October. Acceptance would lead to a founding convention next year.
The committee report recommends a 25-member national elected board with representation from all regions, major industries and workers of colour.
It calls for the invitation of new members who are in unorganized workplaces, unemployed and retired to broaden the union’s appeal and build support in communities.
The report also says the new union must develop a brand and use better techniques in organizing and attracting members.
Furthermore, the report details numerous principles that will provide the framework of a constitution for the new union. If the boards and convention delegates approve them, working groups will then handle the issues of a formal constitution, operating procedures, a name and logo in preparation for the founding event.
Kennedy, who is also the CAW’s secretary-treasurer, said the special committee received input from more than 1,000 people in meetings across the country during the last few months.
“There was a lot of debate and some of the meetings were intense,” he said. “But there was a tremendous amount of goodwill among everyone. Ultimately, they know it’s the right thing to do.”