Why are we devoting so much of our union’s resources on raiding instead of organizing un-organized workers? Isn’t this causing division and animosity between unions when we should be working together to help organize precarious workers like those at Tim Horton’s?
Is your emphasis on getting workers from other unions into Unifor due to the lack of success by Unifor’s organizing strategy? Don’t you have 18 full-time National Reps in the Organizing Department with an annual budget of $10 million? How is it that the total number of new members organized in 2017 (up to the date of the Ontario Council meeting December 1, 2017) was only 3,279?
There are 12 Unifor National Representatives in this picture, including three of your Assistants and two Department Directors, all of whom earn more than $125,000 per year. Why did you assign them to stand in front of the Hilton Hotel waving Unifor flags? Is that the best use of their time? Is that the best use of our dues money? I don’t see a lot of hotel workers in that picture – it seems you have more generals than soldiers.
You claim you think all workers should have the right to vote on their choice of union – why have you blocked the efforts of fish harvesters in Newfoundland to have a vote for more than a year?
How many former UNITE HERE Local 75 staff are now on the Unifor payroll? How much are we paying them? The former president of Local 75 was the subject of allegations of racism against her, and an independent investigation was under way. Why did you put her on the Unifor payroll before the issue was decided? Is that action in accordance with Unifor’s committment to oppose racism?
You claim to uphold the principle of the Rand Formula – that everybody should pay their dues. Why doesn’t that principle apply to Unifor paying their dues to the CLC, the central labour body in Canada? Is it right for Unifor to withdraw its financial contribution, thereby hurting the ongoing work of the CLC on behalf of workers in Canada? Shouldn’t you stay and argue for the changes you want?
What proposals for change did Unifor put forward at the last CLC Convention in May, 2017? Oh – you didn’t put forward any – why not?
You claim that putting a local union under trusteeship is undemocratic. Doesn’t the Unifor Constitution allow the National Executive Board “on its own motion” to “supervise, reorganize or disband a Local Union”? Are you planning to remove this section of the Unifor Constitution (Article 15 M)? Why did you remove the charters of five Unifor locals in BC without a hearing? Was that democratic?
When we need support from the rest of the labour movement in upcoming battles with employers, how will your division of the labour movement help us? How can we achieve equality in pay and benefits and the elimination of two-tier contracts without a broader movement, or do you not believe in those goals?
The hotel workers in UNITE HERE Local 75 fought to have Toronto City Council impose tougher restrictions on Airbnb – why did you send a letter to Toronto City Council praising Airbnb and stating that “Because of Airbnb’s progressive approach, Unifor is exploring ways to work together with them. We will continue to explore areas of mutual interest to improve the public good, and if possible work towards a national partnership.”?
If you believe in democracy – why did you fight so hard against the democratic decision of delegates to the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention to support the NDP in this year’s Ontario election? Do you put your support of Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau ahead of the democratic, progressive decision of the OFL convention?
Cory Weir talks to The Taylor Report, CIUT-FM, about Unifor’s disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress, which has divided and weakened the workers’ movement in Canada.
“This exit from the CLC is absolutely destructive for the Canadian labour movement. We’re at a watershed moment where we have massive public outrage against bad bosses and employers who are pushing back against the minimum wage increase … We’re at this great moment to be out organizing workers, to be building our movement, building capacity of some of the most marginalized workers in the country – instead we’re in this massive public battle”
On January 17th, 2018 Jerry Dias, National President of Unifor, announced that he was disaffiliating our union from the 3.5 million member Canadian Labour Congress “effective immediately”. This division of Canada’s labour movement will be a huge blow to the struggles of workers across the country. The decision was ratified by Jerry’s hand-picked Unifor National Executive Board, who have never been known to stand up to him on any issue. But why weren’t we consulted as Unifor members? Why didn’t Unifor members get to vote? Supposedly this destructive move was taken in the name of “union democracy” – what a joke! The dues-paying members of Unifor never even knew disaffiliation was being discussed or voted on.
Unifor Exits In Order to Raid
What has motivated this undemocratic action? As many people have pointed out, part of the reason is Jerry’s desire to continue raiding other unions, instead of organizing unorganized workers. His efforts to engineer a takeover of the TTC workers of ATU Local 113 blew up in his face, even though Hassan Yussuff, CLC President, bent over backwards to try to help him. Yussuff unilaterally suspended part of the CLC Constitution to allow the raid, but was eventually forced by other CLC affiliates to reverse his position. (It has been pointed out by some, that Jerry Dias spent some $1 million of Unifor’s funds to get Hassan Yussuff elected as CLC President.) Jerry struck a deal with Bob Kinnear, ATU Local 113 President, to bring his members into Unifor, which one of Kinnear’s supporters referred to as “the big white shark”. At that time, Jerry also promised there would be support from Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne. But none of that translated into support from TTC workers, so the attempted raid fizzled out. Now the “big white shark” has another victim in its sights – the 8,000 Toronto hotel workers who are members of UNITE HERE Local 75. Knowing that he is unlikely to get the CLC to acquiesce to more raiding, Dias has decided to pre-emptively leave the CLC so that he can raid with impunity. The day after the disaffiliation Unifor was already trying to get hotel workers to sign Unifor cards.
Liberal Politics is the “Bigger Picture”
However, raiding is not the only motivation here. To fully understand what is going on, we have to pull aside the curtain and see who is really operating the levers. Jerry Dias, as President of Unifor, and his predecessor Buzz
Hargrove, President of the CAW, have been instrumental over the last few years in helping the Liberal Party capture a large chunk of the Canadian labour movement. They call their policy “strategic voting” but it is clearly designed to benefit the Liberals. In recent elections unions have contributed more money to the Liberal Party than to their traditional political partner, the NDP. In the 2011 Ontario provincial election, unions contributed a total of $1,019,876 to the Liberal Party, and a strategic voting front group, the Working Families Coalition, also primarily funded by unions, spent an additional $2.1 million on advertising against the Conservatives. Union contributions to the NDP were $836,956.
Part of cementing this Liberal ideological takeover of the labour movement has been installing Hassan Yussuff, a Unifor staffer, whose partner is an assistant to Jerry Dias, as President of the CLC; and displacing Sid Ryan with Chris Buckley, another Unifor staffer, as President of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
The disastrous results of this growing hegemony of Liberalism in the major bodies of the labour movement, is that there is no effective opposition to the anti-worker policies of the Trudeau and Wynne governments. Trudeau’s government embraces capitalist trade deals (CETA, TPP, NAFTA), he endorses climate-killing pipelines, he introduces bill C-27 to undermine defined benefit pensions – and the CLC is mute. Meanwhile Kathleen Wynne’s government legislates teachers back to work, privatizes Hydro and installs the leading privatization advocate, Ed Clark, as head of the LCBO – and the OFL provides no meaningful opposition leadership or mobilization. All because Unifor is determined to get Wynne and Trudeau re-elected. However, there is growing opposition in the labour movement to this policy of being in bed with Liberal governments.
Dias Infuriated by OFL Endorsement of NDP
The decision by Jerry Dias to ‘take his ball and go home’ and pull Unifor out of the CLC comes only 2 months after his embarrassing defeat at last fall’s OFL convention. Despite desperate maneuvering by Unifor operatives, the Convention adopted a policy to support the NDP in the 2018 Ontario election. Dias was furious, and threatened at the time that he would pull funding from the OFL. It seems clear that Dias wants to bully the CLC and Provincial Federations of Labour into supporting the Liberal Party – or else he will work to divide and undermine those bodies.
In his statement on the disaffiliation, Dias claimed:
“Unifor stands in support of union democracy and the rights of workers. Our union is opposed to any union that threatens, harasses, intimidates, or silences workers for simply asserting their democratic rights to choose a union or for the purpose of quelling dissent within the local.”
Was Jerry Dias defending democracy when he booted 5 BC Unifor locals out of the union without a hearing – a blatant violation of the Unifor constitution?
Is Dias defending the right of workers to choose a union when he uses legal maneuvering for over a year to prevent fish harvesters from voting on which union they want to belong to? This is from The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) Facebook page:
Good morning NL and all ships at sea. Let’s see if I have this straight: Unifor Canada has broken away from the Canadian Labour Congress over a disagreement about the rights of workers to choose what union should represent them, even as FFAW/Unifor blocks inshore harvesters in NL from choosing their union fate. GerrydiazLana Payne et al are full of sh-t.
Jerry Dias has allied himself with the Bay Street Liberal Party and turned himself into a shill for their policies. There is no better example of this than Jerry’s grandstanding as the supposed ‘voice of labour’ at the NAFTA negotiations. He is serving as the lap dog of Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland (who continues to praise her Nazi-collaborator grandfather) and has made clear that he wants the Canadian and US governments to work together against the “real enemy” – Mexico. Instead of trying to build ties between US, Canadian and Mexican workers – which would be real solidarity, Dias disparages unions in Mexico. He calls them “protection” unions and claims they are in bed with companies and government. Instead of trying to work with the unions that actually represent auto workers in Mexico, Dias has made ties with a few dissident organizations. But if being in bed with corporations and their political parties is wrong – Dias and the UAW are as guilty as any union in Mexico. Here’s the kicker – in the joint UAW and Unifor NAFTA position paper from last summer, the source for information about Mexico – is the U.S. State Department!
Unifor members and locals should demand the immediate reversal of Jerry Dias’ undemocratic decision to pull out of the CLC. This action hurts the labour movement of Canada, which means it hurts all Canadian workers including Unifor members. This is happening at exactly the moment when there were strong grass-roots efforts to fight bad-boss Tim Hortons franchisees. Instead of raiding and division, we need all unions to work together to unionize low-wage workers.
The autocratic, egotistical actions by Jerry Dias are dangerous and destructive. It’s time Jerry – time for you to go. If Jerry does not do the honourable thing and resign, we need to do the honourable thing and impeach him.
Unifor National Executive Board unanimously (unconstitutionally?) voted to leave the CLC . This has caused a rift in the House of Labour and has rightfully gotten the activists of Unifor riled up, many of whom once belonged to a Regional Labour Council or Provincial Federation of Labour before this decision was made. As members of the Unifor Solidarity Network, we feel it’s important that you make your opinion heard directly to the NEB. We would also like to post your letters here as well, because we feel that this issue merits a full discussion with our members.
We call on all Unifor activists to stand against this undemocratic power move by our NEB, and to continue our important work at the grassroots while our leaders waste valuable time and energy at the top.
My name is Mike Mutimer. I’m a member of Local 222 and as of yesterday, I was a delegate and Executive Member at Large for the Durham Region Labour Council.
I write to express my displeasure with the National Executive Board’s unanimous decision to immediately disaffiliate from the Canadian Labour Congress.
While I can understand the NEB’s frustration with the CLC and the lack of action in regards to the bullying tactics of US based unions, are we not engaging in our own bullying tactic by withholding our per captia as Canada’s largest private sector union? In your “Facts on Unifor’s disaffiliation from the CLC” article, you don’t clearly say that WE (as Unifor) are acting like bullies, however when you say things like “It is our hope that the action to disaffiliate from the CLC will trigger change to ensure that workers in Canada have their democratic rights respected”, one can clearly read between the lines.
You’re hoping by starving the CLC of our per capita, they will “trigger change”. If that’s not a bully tactic, I’m not sure what is. This effectively removes two million dollars from their budget.
Further more, it would appear NEB also acted in violation of our own Unifor Constitution which states in Article 19: Affiliations, Section 2 : Suspension or disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress may be authorized by the National Executive Board subject to the approval of Convention, or the Canadian Council.
Reading through the resolutions of 2017’s Canadian Council, I don’t see any type of approval given to the NEB to act in this manner. This should have been approved by Canadian Council last year prior to this decision and not to be dealt with later this year.
I respectfully disagree that the NEB didn’t enter into this lightly. There has been conflicting messages in regards to affiliation to regional labour councils. If this was a well thought out decision, there would have been more discussion and especially with out members. This wouldn’t have been done during the middle of giant National Day of Action that has been put together by labour councils. The timing couldn’t be worse.
To conclude, I’m deeply disappointed by this action. It seems to be exactly the same type of bullying tactic that has been used in the past when unions didn’t get their way in the OFL and now Unifor is doing it to the CLC. There are better ways to resolve this issue than to remove the largest private sector union in the country from the House of Labour. It appears the NEB acted in violation of the Unifor Constitution Article 19 Section 2 that says suspension or disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress can be authorized by the the NEB SUBJECT TO APPROVAL of Convention or Canadian Council, which was not gained during the last 2017 Canadian Council.
I really hope this decision is reversed as soon as possible.
Unifor Local 222
Sisters and Brothers,
I’m writing to express my extreme displeasure with your recent unanimous decision to end our affiliation with the Canadian Labour Congress. The impact of this decision will have untold consequences for labour councils across the country and has absolutely embarrassed us in front of the broader labour community.
If we are truly concerned about democracy, why was this decision carried out behind close doors on an executive level without any mandate from our membership? Why would our National President release a statement urging our continued participation in regional labour councils when Section 7 of the CLC constitution very expressly prohibits our continued participation?
I am very aware of the situation with Unite Here Local 75 and the gross abuse of power and process they face at the hand of the UH International. I fully respect and support their right to self-determination as I have and will always place local union autonomy above all other union authority, however if it is self-determination we are truly seeking for these workers, would it not have sufficed to provide assistance for their highly capable, experienced, and engaged membership in the pursuit of their own independent direction instead of raiding their members and making Unifor the mockery of the Canadian labour movement?
We are in a watershed moment as labour fights to defend the gains made under Bill 148, and we desperately need to organize service sector workers. Instead though, we will wind up wasting enormous sums of our dues both engaging in and defending against raids without protection under Article 4 of the CLC. Hundreds of our most dedicated labour activists have now been plucked from both leadership and rank & file roles within the regional councils, effectively tearing apart both their funding and capacity in some instances. These councils are the lifeblood of the labour movement and your decisions have done immense harm to not only the councils but to the public image of unions in general which are routinely painted as greedy and only interested in securing dues. Consequently, it will take years to mend the mistrust that has now been sewn between Unifor and the rest of the unified labour movement.
This power move has come at such a grossly inopportune time, and has been carried out in such a callous and unthinking way that I question both the vision and intention of the primary motivators of this decision. With all of this said, I hope for the speedy and tactful rectification of this completely avoidable situation, and have faith in the ability of those on the NEB who recognize the true depth of this transgression against a united Canadian labour movement.