CAW vote moves Canada toward mega-union

Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:52pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) - One of Canada's most influential unions on Wednesday approved a radical plan to merge with a smaller rival to create what would be the country's largest private sector union.

Delegates at the Canadian Auto Workers' (CAW) convention approved a plan to join up with Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) in a new union that would have more than 300,000 members.

Union leaders had billed their plan as the best way to revive the flagging fortunes of the Canadian labor movement, and the CAW said the vote was unanimous. CEP members must now decide on the merger at their convention in October.

"Brothers and sisters, our shoulders must be bigger. Our hearts must be stronger," said CAW National President Ken Lewenza, his voice breaking as he backed the creation of a new union that forces the auto workers' union out of existence.

He grasped upraised hands with CEP President Dave Coles, and wiped away tears.

The CAW, currently in talks with Detroit's Big Three automakers, was formed in 1985 when Canadian locals broke away from the United Auto Workers. Mergers and layoffs have changed the face of the union, now only about 20 percent auto workers.

A well-paid membership and charismatic, media-savvy leaders have given the CAW outsized political influence. But the recession hit it hard, and membership has dropped 26 percent since 2005, to 195,000, according to convention documents.

CEP's membership has fallen more than 20 percent over five years, to about 110,000, according to government data.   Continued...