|March 26, 2006
CAW’s National Executive Board encourages withdrawing CAW Support for the NDP
|staff across the country to withdraw support for the New Democratic Party; reaffirm the commitment to the CAW’s long-run strategy to
engage in politics independently; and double the CAW’s efforts in support of its social movement partners.
“The action of the Ontario NDP is a direct attack on the CAW and our members. Our election policy was arrived at by a thorough
debate by some 900 CAW workplace leaders at our CAW Council meeting in December,” said CAW president Buzz Hargrove. “The
NDP’s arrogant decision says that organizations affiliated to the NDP cannot make independent decisions on political strategy. Our
union cannot remain under these circumstances.”
Here is the resolution, adopted by the NEB on March 21, 2006:
‘Whereas: The CAW Council meeting in December 2005, by democratic decision, approved by an overwhelming majority of
delegates, after a three hour debate, a resolution which argued that:
CAW endorses the sitting NDP members of Parliament and individual NDP candidates in potentially winnable ridings. In other
ridings, in order to stop the Conservatives, we will decide what best contributes to electing a Liberal minority with an NDP balance of
Whereas: It is essential that democratic unions and social movements maintain the independence to work in what they, through their
democratic structures, judge to be in the best interests of their members and constituents, and
Whereas: The replacement of the Liberal minority by a Stephen Harper government has clearly harmed the interests of working
people in Canada; a setback that will become worse if the Conservatives win a majority in the next election.
Be It Resolved that this meeting:
- Express its outrage at the decision by the Ontario NDP Executive, backed by the ONDP Council, to suspend CAW national
President Buzz Hargrove from the Ontario and federal NDP parties.
- Convey its dismay at the failure of the federal NDP and NDP leadership in other provinces and territories to object to what
amounts to the scurrilous targeting of the CAW.
- Urge the federal party and provincial and territorial party organizations to demand the ONDP rescind its decision and to amend
NDP constitutions to accept and respect that labour leaders and others will act in accordance with the democratic decisions
made by their unions or organizations.
- Reaffirm its commitment to the CAW’s long-run strategy to engage in politics independently, in the name of the union and its
- Double our efforts in support of our social movement partners.
- Commit to work to limit the regressive actions of the Harper government, and prevent it from winning a majority in the next
- Recommend that the CAW Council encourage CAW local leadership, staff, CAW members, as well as CAW local unions
affiliated to the NDP, to withdraw all support and affiliations from the NDP federally and in all provinces and territories.
In the past, our union has faced many political challenges and we continue to do so. Our efforts to shape the political agenda, to push
governments to adopt more progressive policies and programs and to confront the power of the political right will continue.
The CAW remains committed to strengthening working class politics and we will expand our financial support and efforts to work with
other like-minded groups in our common goal of building a progressive alternative in our country.’
Questions & Answers on the NEB Resolution Regarding the NDP
Why is the CAW taking this decision?
The NDP's decision to expel Buzz Hargrove -- a decision which was ratified explicitly by the ONDP Council, and implicitly by the
silence of NDP leaders in Ottawa and in the other provinces -- is an outright attack on the ability of organizations affiliated to the party
to take independent political action in the interests of their members and the broader community. If there is one thing we value in the
CAW above all else, it is our independence as a union. That's why we left the UAW and formed our own union in 1985. We must
retain the right to bargain our own contracts, develop our own policies, elect our own leaders, and conduct our own politics.
Our actions in the last federal election reflected a democratic decision of our union. To expel the union's president for carrying out
those actions is an offensive and anti-democratic act. We cannot collectively remain part of an organization which does not respect
our ability to make independent decisions.
What is the NEB asking CAW locals and leaders to do?
We are asking those CAW locals which are still affiliated to the NDP, to now collectively end that affiliation. And we are asking elected
CAW leaders and CAW staff, who are expected to act collectively to promote the CAW's decisions, to end their involvement in the
party. Finally, we will no longer offer financial support or other organizational resources to the party.
Has the CAW shifted to the "right" in its politics?
The CAW is a ‘social union.’ We view our work as an integral part of a broader effort involving other unions, social movements, and
progressive politicians, to build a more equal and just society. In the wake of the decision to sever all ties with the NDP, the CAW will
redouble our efforts to support and participate in those broader social justice initiatives.
What has changed is our faith in the reliability of professional politicians to stay true to that cause. We've learned the hard way, time
and time again, that we cannot blindly trust any party, no matter how progressive it says it is, to do the right thing. We've worked hard
to elect NDP governments -- and then watched them turn their backs on the principles, and the people, that got them elected.
In the last federal election, again, we saw the federal NDP put its own interests ahead of the fight for child care, for the environment,
for our key industries. They brought down the minority government because they thought it was a great chance to pick up a few
seats. And now we are stuck with Stephen Harper – who has a good chance to win a majority in the next election.
We have to maintain the ability to make independent judgments and decisions -- even when they are critical of the party we support.
Otherwise we become a mere arm of the party. And we've seen many times in history that when the labour movement becomes an
arm of a party -- any party -- then its credibility with its members evaporates.
Will the CAW support NDP candidates in future elections?
Under our existing policy, we decide in each election, on a case-by-case basis, what strategy we will follow as a union in an election.
Sometimes we endorse a whole party, sometimes we endorse particular candidates, sometimes we endorse no-one and campaign
on issues only. We will continue to follow this policy. The NDP is the most progressive party in English Canada, and we may decide
in future (depending on the circumstances in each election) to support NDP candidates.
What is crucial here is that the CAW must retain the independence to make those decisions and judgments ourselves, in the best
interests of our members -- not because we have to toe any party’s line.
How will the decision affect the NDP's membership and finances?
At present, there are some 50 CAW local unions affiliated to the party, mostly in Ontario (in total, the CAW has 300 locals).
The CAW also contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support to the party, where it is legal to do so (i.e.: not at the
federal level or in Manitoba, where large union donations are illegal). This will end.
There are also some CAW members who belong individually to the NDP. Their decision whether to now withdraw from the party will,
of course, be up to them individually.
What about in Quebec?
In Quebec, our union's political activities are determined independently by the elected leaders of our union in Quebec (through the
Quebec Council), and this will not change. At present, the Quebec Council offers critical support to the Parti Quebecois (and the Bloc
Quebecois in federal elections). The CAW has no relationship with the NDP in Quebec.
Is there a chance the CAW might change its mind?
If the NDP reinstates Buzz Hargrove, and reviews its policies to ensure that affiliated labour and social organizations (and their
leaders) retain the right to set their own political direction, then we will revisit the decision. However, the actions of the NDP in the
federal election and in expelling the CAW President have deeply undermined support within the CAW for the party, and that damage
will linger for some time, even if the NDP changes its mind.
Source: CAW NewsNow
Feb.13/06 NDP Expels Canada's best-known Labour Leader - CAW's Buzz Hargrove
Feb.15/06 Why expel Hargrove?
Feb.24/06 The Hargrove expulsion: A wrong-headed move Layton needs to fix