UE, Unifor, and its predecessor unions have a long history of working together and share the guiding principle that militant democratic rank-and-file unionism is required to promote a renewed and reinvigorated North American labor movement. Unifor and UE also share the core belief that our members must take an active and aggressive role in organizing the unorganized.
Formally founded four years ago, Unifor is a new union built by its predecessors — the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP). The members have a strong tradition of resisting concessionary bargaining and two-tier wage schemes that many U.S. unions routinely accept. Unifor is the largest private sector union in Canada with more than 315,000 members. It has become a general workers union, representing workers in manufacturing, hotels and restaurants, gaming, healthcare, retail, food production, transportation, forestry, and oil and gas production. More than 50,000 Unifor members are public sector workers.
UE is no stranger to Canada and Canadian workers. From 1936 to 1992, UE represented thousands of Canadians employed by GE, Westinghouse, and other manufacturing companies. Recognizing the distinct national interests of Canadian workers, UE Canada, with the National UE’s support, affiliated with CAW in 1992. Unifor Locals 524 in Peterborough and Local 504 in Hamilton celebrate their UE history and carry that legacy with pride and distinction.
Today, Unifor and UE continue to have important mutual interests in organizing and bargaining with GE and other common employers. Both Unifor and UE strive to be unions for everyone, private sector and public sector. Both national unions also recognize the distinct national interests of workers in each country and the need for genuine continental solidarity based on our common principles.
Working together, our organizations are better equipped to combat the rise of inequality and the decline of trade unions, which are twin features of the neoliberal era. Low union density in the private sector has passed a tipping point in both the U.S. and Canada where the growth of unorganized sectors and the decline of employment in traditionally unionized industries results in a continuous decline in the rate of unionization.
Leading manufacturing employers like GE, Caterpillar, Boeing, and the big auto companies have systematically degraded work and destroyed living standards through the extensive use of precarious jobs (contractors and temp agencies) and two-tier pay and benefit schemes. Young people, women, workers of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+, and workers with disabilities often make up the new “precariat” in both the U.S and Canada. Young workers may for the first time in many generations be worse off than the generation that came before them. The mainstream labor movement in both countries has been too slow to adapt and change its organizing, bargaining, and political strategies.
The North American working class and our labor movement face extraordinary challenges that call for bold ideas and new structures. UE and Unifor are committed to creating a new form of cross-border cooperation, which allows us to effectively mount struggles across borders. It’s not enough to send messages of support to each other. We need to share resources, organize together, bargain jointly where appropriate, and withhold our labor together when it is necessary. Together both unions are better positioned to resist concessionary and two-tier bargaining that divides workers. Our unions are committed to building equality for all members. Workers of color, immigrants, women, indigenous people, young workers, LGBTQ+ members, and workers with disabilities must be encouraged to participate and become leaders in our unions. Strong, progressive independent political action must break the pattern of unions providing support to political parties and politicians that neglect, minimize, and compromise working class interests.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 75th UE CONVENTION:
- Commits to building on our Solidarity Project, through which UE and Unifor will develop cooperative working relationships on North American bargaining, organizing, education, communication, and political action initiatives, such initiatives to be determined and approved by the national officers of each union and where appropriate by the General and National Executive Boards of each union;
- Endorses UE participation in a joint study group with Unifor representatives regarding the prospects for a continental labor alliance based upon democratic, militant, and social unionism, and true internationalism between American and Canadian workers, which will report in 2018 to the General and National Executive Boards of each union on the need and purpose for such an alliance, including its principles and possible structure;
- Calls upon the union at all levels to promote discussion regarding the North American Solidarity Project, its necessity for advancing the interest of working people on both sides of our common border, and steps that can be taken to support and strengthen the project;
- Calls on the General Executive Board to hold a UE convention in 2018 if needed to further our relationship with Unifor.