Divisive Action Driven by Liberal Party Politics
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.”
If you look up ‘hypocrisy’ in the dictionary, you’ll find a gallery of pictures of Jerry Dias.
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. Gerrydiaz Lana 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.