Unifor Founding Convention Hears a Call for a Green Labour Revolution

Canada’s newest and biggest private sector union, Unifor, held its founding convention on August 31 and September 1, making official the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union (CEP). These two unions together represent approximately 300,000 workers, in almost all sectors of the economy, including auto and aerospace manufacturing, rail, energy, communications, forestry, fisheries, and mining – sectors which are on the front lines of climate change.

In her speech to the convention, Naomi Klein stated that the labour movement is needed to take the lead in the fight against climate change – environmentalists and political parties cannot do it alone. In outlining her own “genuine climate action plan”, she called for a democratically-controlled energy system and massive investment in public infrastructure. “I am not suggesting some half-assed token ‘green jobs’ program. This is a green labour revolution I’m talking about. An epic vision of healing our country from the ravages of the last 30 years of neoliberalism and healing the planet in the process.”… “Climate change – when its full economic and moral implications are understood – is the most powerful weapon progressives have ever had in the fight for equality and social justice.”

Environmental goals figure in some of the important official documents of the new union. Note Article 2.10 of the new Unifor Consitution: “Our goal is transformative. To reassert common interest over private interest. Our goal is to change our workplaces and our world. Our vision is compelling. It is to fundamentally change the economy, with equality and social justice, restore and strengthen our democracy and achieve an environmentally sustainable future. This is the basis of social unionism -a strong and progressive union culture and a commitment to work in common cause with other progressives in Canada and around the world.”

The Unifor Vision and Plan document strikes a more pragmatic note. The union promises to oppose the export of raw bitumen and the construction of massive pipelines, advocating for more “made in Canada” inputs and processing. It pledges to work with environmental allies to advocate for a Canadian energy policy which reduces GHG emissions, ensures a sustainable development of the oil sands and promotes value-added jobs in upgrading and refining petroleum products.

LINKS

Why Unions Need to Join the Climate Fight, Naomi Klein’s speech is at her website at: http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2013/09/why-unions-need-join-climate-fight

Unifor website is at: http://www.unifor.org/en (English) and http://www.unifor.org/fr (French), including the Constitution at:http://www.unifor.org/en/about-unifor/constitution  (English version) and http://www.unifor.org/fr/a-propos-unifor/statuts (French version).

A New Union for a Challenging World: Unifor’s Vision and Plan is available at: the convention website at: http://www.newunionconvention.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/682-New-Union-Vision-web-ENG.pdf (English version) and http://www.nouveausyndicatendirect.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/682-New-Union-Vision-FR-web.pdf (French version).