There is growing opposition to undemocratic actions by Jerry Dias and other Unifor leaders, such as the unilateral disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress. A new group calledWe Are Unifor has been gathering signatures of Unifor members for their Democracy Declaration. Over 100 Unifor members from over 40 different local unions have already signed this declaration which states:
It’s time for a more democratic Unifor. It’s time for a Unifor where major decisions are made by the membership. It’s time for a Unifor where political debate is encouraged and where members can voice their opinions without fear of intimidation and retribution.
It’s time for Unifor’s NEB to rescind the decision to disaffiliate from the CLC. Unilaterally disaffiliating, effective immediately, was a clear violation of the Constitution, a clear violation of our democratic rights as Unifor members.
No consultation. No membership vote. No mandate.
Four Unifor Locals Appeal Undemocratic Disaffiliation
We Are Unifor has also been instrumental in encouraging Unifor Local unions to file appeals (called “review of decision” in the language of the Unifor Constitution). We Are Unifor reported on February 26:
Four locals are now challenging the decision. Locals 88 and 567 recently joined locals 222 and 2025 in beginning formal appeals of the decision, arguing that leaving the CLC without a membership vote violated the Unifor Constitution. Stay tuned for updates as these challenges proceed.
Jerry Dias has tried to justify his disaffiliation from the CLC and his failed attempted raid of hotel workers in UNITE HERE Local 75, by claiming he is defending workers from an “American Invasion”. Nothing punctures this false narrative more effectively than listening to the voices of actual rank-and-file hotel workers, the very workers who have organized their industry in Toronto and made impressive gains for their members.
The Taylor Report on CIUT-FM 89.5 interviewed Rick Hockley, a long-time Local 75 activist, on Monday, February 19, 2018.Everyone who is concerned with this current crisis in the Canadian labour movement should listen to this interview. Rick has been a server/bartender for 15 years. He was elected as a steward, then as chief steward for his property, then in 2008 was elected as a rank-and-file member of the UNITE HERE Local 75 executive board.
The exact same day as they left the CLC … obviously it was premeditated for quite a while … at the least the last couple of months this has been their plan.
Dias’ raid is a flop – gets 5 out of 24 hotels
We weren’t expecting a majority of our union staff to leave our office and go to an opposing union, being able to have that access to our members … Of those 24 hotels that were attempted to be raided by Unifor – 17 of the hotels stuck together with UNITE HERE
… there were votes at some, 5 of which decided to leave us, unfortunately, and there are two hotels where the boxes are sealed by the labour board currently.
Local 75 is a diverse, grass-roots union
In Toronto we have workers from 80 to 90 countries, who come from all over the globe, the majority are immigrants, people of colour … We’re a grass roots organization, we’re led by the workers. Myself, as a worker, we are the leaders of the organization. This doesn’t come from the top down. We’re not a corporation. We have the ability to have a voice, to have a vote, and that’s a little bit unique to us, sadly, when really it should be like that all across unions, across the world – workers’ power – right?
Trusteeship was asked for by the Local leadership
This was not something that was a brash, quick decision by our International. This was a long time coming. The executive board asked back in December 2016 to invoke the trusteeship because at that point our former president was just constantly making decisions unilaterally without respecting the democratic voice of the governing body, which is the elected executive board members – all rank-and-file members from within our hotels and food service … Three quarters of the executive asked for trusteeship in December 2016, we asked again in April 2017, it was imposed in January 2018.
Complaints of racism against former leaders
There was a lot of racism structurally within our local office in regards to demotions, promotions, hiring people, suspensions … when complaints or allegations were brought up it wasn’t investigated properly …Our leaders, our organizers who had really built our union, a lot of rank-and-file organizers who had come up to be a part of the labour movement and better peoples’ lives in the last couple of decades … they were being treated like criminals.
One of Unifor’s Key Auto Locals Stands in Opposition to Dias
The membership of Unifor Local 222 has issued a stunning rebuke to Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
At the Local 222 general membership meeting on February 1, two motions were passed that opposed the sudden, destructive action taken by Dias on January 16, to pull Unifor out of the house of labour. The Canadian labour movement has been in turmoil since, with the Unifor staff trying desperately to raid hotel workers belonging to UNITE HERE Local 75 (with limited success). The incredible momentum that had been built in support of Tim Hortons workers has suffered a setback. Meanwhile, a few top union officials have given up any pretence of principle and are scrambling to hold on to their 6 figure salaries.
The Local 222 motions are based on solid, working class principles. The first motion called on Dias to reverse the disaffiliation.
As members of Unifor Local 222 we are disappointed that you have taken the action of disaffiliating our union from Canada’s central labour body, the Canadian Labour Congress. While you obtained the endorsement of the National Executive Board for this drastic step, there was no advance notice to the broader members or local leaders of Unifor. As a result, the NEB endorsed your request before they had a chance to hear any of the views of our members.
The second motion endorsed an appeal (in the terminology of the Unifor Constitution, a ‘request for review’) of the NEB decision, because Dias had “violated the democratic rights of Unifor members in several ways”.
Local 222 has great historical importance. The April 1937 strike by GM workers in Oshawa was the impetus for the establishment of industrial unionism in Canada. In 1970, the Local 222 Women’s Committee led the fight against separate seniority rights for men and women workers that resulted in major improvements in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the banning of such discrimination. Local 222 has now taken a courageous stand against the undemocratic actions of Jerry Dias and his entourage. Other Unifor locals should follow this lead.
Union Principles or Self-interest?
When Unifor announced they were no longer affiliated to the CLC and would no longer be paying their dues, it called into question the status of Unifor members who had been elected to leadership positions on the CLC Executive, on provincial Federations of Labour, and on local Labour Councils. Hassan Yussuff, for example, had been elected President of the CLC as a Unifor member – in fact Jerry Dias probably spent a million dollars bussing in people to vote for him. Under the CLC Constitution, Hassan Yussuff has no legitimacy to hold office and should step down immediately. He has been sending letters to other Unifor members holding office – such as this one sent to CLC Vice-President Dan Browne, who was elected to represent young workers:
“Dear Brother Browne: Due to the decision of your national union, Unifor, to disaffiliate from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), we regret to inform you that you cannot continue to serve as a Vice-President on the CLC Canadian Council.”
And then, reaching new depths of hypocrisy, Yussuff announced that he could continue collecting his President’s salary because he had obtained a membership card from the PSAC. Ordinary workers, whose dues fund the offices and 6 figure salaries of Hassan Yussuff and Jerry Dias, must be furious. The average wage of a Unifor member is $23.78 an hour, or under $50,000 a year. We can no longer tolerate union executives who are more focussed on enriching themselves than on working to improve the lives of workers.