Power Politics

by Dick Heinen on December 19, 2011

It was a done deal. The recent decision by the International Trade Union Confederation of (ITUC) to suspend CLAC’s membership clearly had been made long before the process even got started.

The suspension came at the request of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and was an exercise in pure power politics. The investigation, report, and decision were a sham. If a union were to treat any of its members this way, it would be hauled before the labour board on a duty of fair representation charge—and rightly so.

ITUC’s “process” was a flagrant denial of the basic principles of justice, and stands in stark contrast to the process followed by CLAC during two recent successful organizing drives. Employees of Alexandria Moulding in Ontario and Donald’s Fine Foods in BC freely chose CLAC representation after an open campaign, open dialogue, free signing of membership cards, and a government-supervised secret vote.

ITUC and its functionaries should be ashamed of themselves. And the CLC—with more than sixty times as many members as CLAC—should be ashamed of its abuse of power. Together, they have made a mockery of union pluralism by rejecting the idea that unions can work together despite their differences for the betterment of all workers.

At ITUC’s founding in 2006, smaller member unions such as CLAC were reassured that their views would be respected against those of much larger affiliates such as the CLC. But ITUC’s promise to respect union pluralism has proven to be nothing more than empty rhetoric.

This year, CLAC celebrates its sixtieth anniversary. Despite the efforts of Old Labour, we will continue to move forward. The recent successful organizing drives at Alexandria and Donald’s prove that Canadians are hungry for our style of unionism and are confident that CLAC’s principled approach will provide them with quality representation.

As we move forward, let’s keep in mind that might without right is bankrupt, and an organization without substance is hollow—no matter how large it is. Let’s keep in mind that we have much to celebrate this year. CLAC is winning the hearts and minds of more and more workers who freely choose to join us. Together, we’re bringing much-needed change to Canada’s labour landscape.

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