Third Report of the New Union Proposal Committee
May 22, 2012
The Proposal Committee established by the CAW and the CEP to develop a plan for a new national union held its third meeting in Toronto May 14-17. This meeting focused on developing the potential structure of the new union. It also considered ideas for organizing new members, and the industrial make-up of the new organization.
Agreement Reached on Key Structural Features
The Proposal Committee has reached a milestone in creating a new Canadian union. The committee reached consensus on a structure for a strong national union with a robust regional base. These structural proposals will be tabled before both union’s upcoming conventions, as part of the Proposal Committee’s overall report and recommendations.
The new union will bring together over 300,000 members, hundreds of locals, a strong national leadership team, new democratic structures, and the resources to service a broad-based membership. The new union will have the capacity to challenge governments and employers, mount effective political and issue-based campaigns, expand union education, and launch a new era in union organizing.
At every level the goals of integrating the new union from top to bottom, and building a cohesive and unified national organization, are reflected in the structures and commitments that the Proposal Committee is advancing.
The new union will have strong locals and a critical mass in every region of the country. These locals will come together to form new Regional Councils in B.C., the Prairies, in the Atlantic and in Ontario. Quebec will also have a Council to represent the union’s 52,000 members in Quebec. In addition, local delegates from across the country will meet together at least once a year as a national body, in the Canadian Council. This national forum will receive reports from the national officers and discuss resolutions, policies and campaigns.
Each Regional and Quebec Council will elect an executive from among its ranks, and the chairs of the Councils will sit on the National Executive Board. These councils will build the union in every region of the country.
Locals of the new union will have the opportunity to come together in industry councils that will cover almost every sector of the Canadian economy. A special committee was set up to consider industry councils in the new union; it discussed maintaining existing industry councils, and recommended guidelines for the creation and functioning of new ones. These councils will bring their common industry concerns to the union at large, and will give union campaigns, policies and commitments a sectoral focus. Industry council activities will range from information sharing and networking, and the formation of industrial strategies, to the coordination of bargaining.
Consensus Proposals for the Structure of the New Union
The Proposal Committee has reached a consensus on a number of structural and governance proposals for the new union
The Committee has agreed to propose a governance structure with a national convention every 3 years. There will be three national officers (a President, a Secretary-Treasurer, and the Quebec Director). There will also be three elected regional directors (from Atlantic Canada, Ontario, and Western Canada). The regional directors will work closely with the national officers, assistants to the president, area directors, and staff of the union to implement the new union’s activities.
The National Executive Board of the new union will have a rank and file majority base. It will include the national officers and regional directors. It will also include the elected chairpersons of the four Regional Councils and the Quebec Council. A further 12 to 14 members of the National Executive Board will be elected to represent industrial councils, equity groups, skilled trades, and retirees.
The proposed structure recognizes the national character of Quebec, which will have an autonomous structure within the national union and the power to make decisions on matters pertaining to Quebec. The regional councils in the rest of Canada will have a mandate to build the union, adopt resolutions, and campaign on issues and matters relating to regional and provincial affairs, in conjunction with the national union
The committee has also agreed in principle to a number of equity goals and principles. The new union will commit to considering all aspects of the union’s work through an equity lens, recognizing that our approach to these issues is not perfect or permanent and will continue to evolve. The new union will have positions on its National Executive Board that recognize equity seeking groups, national and regional committees, conferences and forums, and policies and processes to promote equity and give voice to equity seeking groups
The New Union Will Organize
The Proposal Committee reviewed a report from a special committee struck to examine future strategies for organizing more members into the new union. This committee sponsored two workshops in April (in Toronto and Trois-Rivières), where organizers, rank-and-file members, and leaders from both unions met to discuss recent challenges and successes in organizing, and to imagine how the new union would expand and improve its organizing efforts.
On the basis of this report, the Proposal Committee adopted a number of key recommendations, which will also be highlighted in the full report it will deliver to the conventions of the two unions later this year:
- The new union must embody a culture of organizing, shared universally from top to bottom, in which every elected leader, staff representative, and activist understands that successful organizing is essential to the union’s future.
- The Proposal Committee agreed that additional resources must be devoted to new member organizing; this will be reflected in the financial structure that will eventually be proposed for the new union.
- The new union will have a national organizing department, including strategic research, communications, and campaign capacities, to support organizing initiatives in all regions and Quebec.
- Strong local unions are essential to successful organizing. Experience has shown that workers will join a union when they “know” it well: know its practices, its leaders, and its bargaining record. Unions must thus be highly visible and respected in their local communities. The new union will implement structural and financial supports to encourage local unions in undertaking more organizing.
- Since the new union will represent a critical mass of members in many different industries, its organizing strategy will also focus on expanding its power base in those industries.
- The new union’s organizing efforts will need to fully reflect the increasing ethnic and linguistic diversity of Canadian workers – including multilingual materials, and a team of organizers that reflects the diversity of the groups we are trying to organize.
- The new union must be ready to unleash a powerful and ambitious wave of new organizing campaigns coinciding with the launch of the new organization, in order to take maximum advantage of the public interest and attention that its formation will generate.
The Proposal Committee agreed in principle with an innovative plan to organize members in new ways, outside of the structures of traditional certified bargaining units. A new category of membership would be developed to allow unemployed workers, workers in workplaces where the union is not yet certified, young people, and precarious or temporary workers to also join the union – albeit without traditional bargaining status. In reaching out to these hard-to-organize segments of the working class, the new union would demonstrate its commitment to be a relevant force fighting on behalf of all working Canadians. This proposal for a new category of membership is in the early stages of discussion, and will require additional development and refinement as the two unions continue to work toward the formation of a new organization.
The Proposal Committee has scheduled additional meetings for late May and June to continue discussions on structure and governance, equity, industry councils, and the financial structure of the new union.
In addition, joint meetings to report on the new union project and consult on the first principles and identity of the new union are continuing. Joint meetings will occur in Edmonton, Regina, Toronto, Quebec City, Halifax and St. John’s. More information on these meetings is available from the joint web site on the new union, www.newunionproject.ca.
The final report and recommendations of the Proposal Committee will be submitted to the CAW Constitutional Convention in August 2012 and the CEP Constitutional Convention in October of 2012. Only after the two conventions approve the plan to form a new union, would the formal steps then be taken to launch a new organization.