|CAW Collective Bargaining & Political Action Convention|
|July 25, 2005
The CAW celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Collective Bargaining &
Political Action Convention in Toronto, July 12 to July 14 at the Sheraton Centre
Nearly 1,100 delegates from coast to coast to coast debated and passed the
union’s bargaining and political action agenda for the next three years.
The theme; Twenty Years of Fighting Back:
The CAW Makes A Difference; not only captures the challenges but also the
many victories the CAW has forged over the first two decades of its existence
as a Canadian union.
CAW national secretary-treasurer Jim O’Neil welcomed delegates, staff and
guests to the convention on Tuesday mornings opening (July 12th). The
Convention, which sees discussion, debate and voting on the union’s collective
bargaining and political action agenda for the next three years, also highlighted the 20th Anniversary of the CAW, which came to light
when the Canadian sector of the U.S. based United Auto Workers (UAW) broke away, forming its own Canadian union.
Prior to CAW president Buzz Hargrove giving his opening speech to the more than 1,100 who were in attendance, the union showed its
new video titled ‘Keeping the Promise: The CAW 20 Years Later’. The video celebrates the historic struggles and many victories of the
CAW and its members over the course of its first 20 years as a Canadian union, including narration by one of Canada’s funniest and
most talented comedians, Rick Mercer. The video follows the course of the CAW since its inception in 1985 up to today, where it has
grown into Canada’s largest industrial union with 265,000 members from coast to coast to coast. The video may be watched from off
the cawcouncil4000.com web site on the graphic/link on the home page (coming soon).
After the video, Hargrove delivered a wide-ranging speech that outlined key issues in CAW Collective Bargaining, including the major
goals in the 2005 Big Three contract talks. Hargrove explained that upcoming talks with General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Ford
would be tough, especially in light of the media spotlight on Big Three finances.
But he stressed that these companies should not underestimate the union’s determination to win strong gains for its members -
ranging from wages to pensions to outsourcing to more time off the job to income security programs to working conditions under local
agreements, and more.
The message to governments and corporations is that there are problems the union can’t solve for them in bargaining, such as the
rising impact of imports on the North American auto market, the rising value of the Canadian dollar, and the design and marketing of new
vehicles, which Hargrove said are all outside of the control of the union.
CAW members build high quality vehicles, are productive and work at unbeatable cost. But Hargrove detailed the growing problem that
offshore imports present for North American workers - creating an issue of unfair trade. Hargrove stressed that CAW negotiated wages,
benefits, pensions and working conditions won’t be gutted because of a “stacked” world trading system. He said while the union
recognizes that the auto industry faces challenges, it will deal with the automakers intelligently without rolling back wages, benefits and
Delegates were reminded that Big Three bargaining, which opens this week (July 18), sets the bargaining agenda for the entire union
over the next three years. He said that agenda would maintain the union’s focus on social unionism - of building better workplaces and
at the same time also working to build a better society through progressive gains, equality and fairness.
Other highlights to the convention…
Retired Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, author of the book titled ‘Shake Hands With The Devil,’ which centres on the Rwandan
conflict, was invited to speak to the convention.
Dallaire described the incredibly difficult choices modern world conflicts present to peacekeeping nations such as Canada. In a
compelling and thought provoking speech which had the attention of all the delegates, Dallaire explained the many challenges and tough
decisions peacekeepers face. Dallaire, who led UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda, said military and political leaders aren’t truly
prepared for conflicts that don’t involve the classic warfare of two big armies facing each other.
He touched on issues such as how peacekeeping troops should deal with children with automatic weapons in places like Rwanda. He
stressed that maintaining Canada’s reputation as a human rights leader, the growth and development of Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) and planning for new challenges are keys to a better future for all. He also explained that Canada is a leader on
the global stage when it comes to human rights issues because of its cultural environment that strongly values all human beings as
equal, regardless of background, colour, creed, gender or any other distinction.
“One day human rights will overcome conflict,” said Dallaire. Following Dallaire’s speech, the CAW announced a $50,000 donation to
the Romeo Dallaire foundation, which works with war torn and impoverished children.
The convention honoured CAW Local 444 member Don Milner who was run down and seriously injured by a company goon in 2002
while on a picket line at the Navistar truck plant in Chatham, Ontario. Navistar members were fighting company plans to close the truck
Despite still struggling to focus following several surgeries and endless hours of therapy since his tragic injury, Milner stood up to thank
the delegates and guests who gave him an emotional standing ovation.
The CAW further went on to honour Don Milner by introducing a new award in his name that recognizes his incredible courage and
endurance, as well as his spirit and determination to overcome adversity. In establishing the Don Milner award, the CAW has challenged
governments to change regressive laws that encourage the use of scabs and permit the use of company goons on legal picket lines.
Mike Shields, CAW organizing director and former Local 222 president, was then named the first recipient of the Don Milner Award for
courage in the face of adversity.
Shields accepted the award in recognition of Marc Hall, the gay Oshawa student who fought the local Catholic school board for the right
to bring his boyfriend to his high school prom. Shields, who at the time was president of CAW Local 222 in Oshawa, took up Hall’s fight
and publicly challenged the school’s attempt to stop Hall from attending with his boyfriend.
Shields credited Hall for incredible courage and for helping to raise the profile of an issue of basic human rights. But he also said the
hatred and threats that were raised by some during Hall’s struggle indicate the need to continue to push for greater progress on LGBT
(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) rights.
Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti was also a guest of the convention, and urged delegates to push federal, provincial
and especially local politicians to support a progressive agenda and the rights of working people and their families. He said labour
needs to speak out and “recapture our democracy” from right wing politicians and their backers in the business elite. He stressed that
labour needs to counter right wing messages that taxes and regulation are bad.
“Taxes are not bad. Taxes are good. Taxes built this country into what it’s today,” Georgetti said. He lauded the CAW for its progressive
bargaining agenda on everything from health and safety to pensions, benefits, wages and more. Using the example of the Rand
Formula, Georgetti said the CAW’s agenda has become the legislated standard in many cases.
Public health insurance is now a legislated right of all Canadians and must be protected from privatization. He thanked the CAW for
getting the Big Three automakers to sign a letter affirming the importance of quality public health care in the last round of bargaining.
Georgetti blasted Alberta Premier Ralph Klein for his continuing attempts to institute private, for-profit “designer” health care. He urged
delegates and the overall labour movement to become vocal on issues key to working people and their families.
Hundreds of retirees took part in a demonstration at the convention urging bargaining committees to continue the fight for better
pensions. The CAW retirees marched onto the convention floor to a standing ovation and the strains of a piper. They carried signs
urging delegates to continue the fight for better pensions not only in bargaining but also in the community and in the legislatures of the
nation. The retirees marched to urge mandatory retirement at age 65 and the need for pension and benefit guarantee funds for all
Canadian political jurisdictions.
Bill Fletcher, an American labour activist and president of the Trans Africa Forum, was also invited as a guest to the convention. He
outlined the crisis facing the U.S. labour movement with the possibility of a major split occurring by the end of July.
Fletcher said the simmering debate at the AFL-CIO surrounds personalities and structure, with virtually no focus on basic philosophical
questions about the nature of labour and its role in U.S. society. The root of the problem behind the declining influence of U.S. labour
goes back to a decade’s old outlook pushed by Samuel Gompers that the U.S. labour movement can at best only be a junior partner to
capital and business.
Fletcher said the key to change is to change the outlook of many American unions from an exclusive focus on collective bargaining to
adopting a broader outlook that represents the wider social, political and economic interests of the working class.
CAW president Buzz Hargrove said Fletcher’s message echoes with CAW members and many within the 3.2 million member Canadian
Labour Congress. It should remind everyone of the importance of anti-poverty, social justice and coalition building work.
Council of Canadians chairwoman Maude Barlow cautioned delegates that Canada is on the brink of a dangerous shift to greater
integration with the United States.
Barlow said various right-wing groups within Canada and the United States are hard at work attempting to “harmonize” and establish
integration on economic, social, environmental, regulatory and other fronts.
This effort to integrate the two countries is an attempt to better compete with the European Union, the Chinese and other major world
economies. Integration work is pushing ahead on a huge number of areas including immigration, the border, a security perimeter, a joint
defence pact, a continental energy pact to name a few. Despite widespread public opposition, these groups are also working to weaken
Canadian control over its water resources.
The drive for integration is being pushed by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and by foreign policy hawks in Washington. The
Americans don’t want to take over Canada, but instead want to ensure Canadian political acquiescence to the American agenda.
Barlow said the Bush government in the U.S. is working hard to wipe out all vestiges of progressive legislation, policies and programs. It
includes a plan for massive tax cuts, continuing massive cuts to social programs, huge spending on Star Wars and greater political
control by right-wing evangelical Christians.
“The Bush revolution is not business as usual,” Barlow said. “This is the most dangerous right-wing government in U.S. history.”
Barlow blasted the Canadian government for not standing up to the Bush agenda and for acting as a proxy supporter of the U.S.
government and its objectives, especially at a time when much of the world including Latin America, France and other parts of the world
are moving left.
She urged Canadians to build links with the millions and millions of Americans who are devastated by the Bush agenda and to continue
a strong fight back.
The convention was capped off with a wonderful dinner and dance held at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre. CAW National President
Buzz Hargrove spoke at the dinner and welcomed speakers - Canadian heavyweight boxing legend George Chuvalo and the first CAW
National President and later President of the Canadian Labour Congress Bob White, who gave a stirring speech. Entertainment was
fantastic, with Master of Ceremonies, comedian Rick Mercer, and musical guests; Canadian legend Bruce Cockburn and the band Da
Bluze Brothers, who both looked and sounded like the real Blues Brothers.
Check out the video news of the convention - Click Here
Council 4000 Regional Rep B.Kennedy, with excerpts from caw.ca