UNIFOR: Canada’s newest (and biggest) labour union

CAW, CEP reveal name and logo of super union.

TORONTO – After a year and a half of discussion and consultation under the working title “ the New Union Project,” the name and logo of the alliance between the Canadian Auto Workers  (CAW) union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers  (CEP) union has been revealed.

UNIFOR – “the union for Canada” – will represent more than 300,000 workers across across Canada and will open its doors to temporary agency, contract and other precarious workers. It will also represent the unemployed and students. Most of the membership would be concentrated in manufacturing, communications and transportation.

“This new name and logo represent the traditional, longstanding union values instilled in both CAW and CEP,” said CEP national president Dave Coles during a press conference at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto. “This union will be responsive to the needs of all Canadians, to ensure secure employment for its membership and to fight for a safer workplace.

“Together we stand united in our greatest challenges.”

CAW delegates voted unanimously in August to merge two of Canada’s largest private-sector unions. In October, more than 90% of CEP’s delegates at its national convention in Quebec City endorsed the merger.

“We’re going through a time when workers across Canada are being attacked by all levels of Canadian government,” said CAW national president Ken Lewenza. “We don’t want division, we want equality. We want opportunity.

“This is about uniting a country of 30 million people and maintaining a standard of living that wouldn’t have existed without the labour movement.”

There’s still no word on the details of UNIFOR’s leadership team, or when its leaders will be announced, but Lewenza was adamant that person will be one who battles for change in Canada.

“Whoever is chosen to lead this union will be a person that wakes up every morning wanting to make a change in the lives of all Canadians,” he said.

The organization will feature a 25-member national executive board consisting of representatives of the various industries, races and regions under the union’s purview.

CAW secretary-treasurer Peter Kennedy said the new union would dedicate 10% of its revenues to organizing campaigns to attract new members, suggesting that by 2018, it would invest more than $50 million.

Existing chapters of the CAW and CEP are expected to remain as chartered locals of the new union and would report to five regional councils across the country.

The announcement comes at a time when union membership in Canada is sliding.

Trade union membership as a share of total employment has fell 10 percentage points to 30% since the late 1970s. The situation is even more pronounced in the US, where fewer than 7% of workers are union members.

National dues, as reported last August, have been set at 0.7% of a worker’s regular salary, roughly in line with CAW members’ current rate and slightly lower than the rate of 0.8% currently paid by CEP members.