|CAW President Buzz Hargrove’s 2007 Labour Day Message: Real leadership can fix Canada’s jobs crisis
|Strong leaders galvanize peoples across lines of income, race, class and gender. Former United Auto Workers (UAW) President Walter Reuther was such an
individual and one of the most progressive thinkers of the twentieth century. At the time when the world was recovering from the Second World War, Reuther’s
ingenuity and vision convinced hundreds of thousands of people across both Canada and the United States that a high quality of life, living wages and social
equality were achievable goals worth fighting for.
As we celebrate Reuther’s 100th birth date this Labour Day, Canadians are challenged with one of the most devastating manufacturing jobs crisis in decades.
With this crisis, working people and their families risk losing many of the gains made since the time of Reuther.
In less than five years, we have seen 300,000 manufacturing jobs vanish from our economy. In 2007, so far there have been a loss of more than 70,000 and
the year is not even over.
Unlike the economic downturns of the past, this comes at a supposed “boom” time for Canada. Our dollar is soaring, our unemployment rate is dropping and
corporate profits are swelling.
Why then are we witnessing unprecedented plant closures and layoffs? Workers are losing good jobs and left with few alternatives. Families are being torn
apart in the search for work. Funding for local services is drying up because good paying jobs are disappearing. Aging workers are discouraged from retiring
because pensions are underfunded and for younger workers, there appear to be fewer and fewer real job opportunities.
Yet, the federal Conservative government refuses to admit a problem even exists. They accept no responsibility for this national crisis, resulting directly from
poor planning and glaring gaps in political judgment.
Here’s the most recent example: the federal government opted to send a $14 million Canadian defense contract to a German manufacturer. In doing this, the
government overlooked three world-class bus manufacturers in Canada. This is unacceptable.
Government purchases, made possible by Canadian tax payers, are one of the simplest ways to support Canadian workers and industry – it’s in our own best
The challenges that we face are immense. But if we learn anything from the lessons of Walter Reuther it is that together, nothing is impossible.
The CAW led a major campaign that brought national attention to manufacturing job losses in Canada. Across the country, local union leadership and
members joined in solidarity with the Canadian Labour Congress, other unions, local labour councils, politicians and community groups to challenge the
federal government’s inaction on job loss. The forums that were held in communities across Canada, and the major rallies that took place in Windsor,
Oshawa, Kitchener and Ottawa, built a momentum unseen since the free trade debates of the late 1980s. From the director of the local United Way to the
Chamber of Commerce member, citizens recognize the importance of protecting manufacturing jobs. We must continue pushing forward to see much needed
As provincial elections are held across Canada it is critical that working people participate. In Ontario, we must fight to ensure that all workers reap the benefits
of targeted investments. The CAW will continue to support the principles of strategic voting to ensure that an attack on working people and the poor, similar to
what happened under Mike Harris’ conservative government, is not repeated.
Federally, we have already seen the dangers citizens would face should Stephen Harper’s Conservative government win a majority in the next election. This
government has steadily pushed forward its agenda of free trade, economic and political alignment with the US and tax cuts while slashing programs for
women, children, culture, and destroying other important areas of community life.
The government has also continued to show a glaring lack of support for Canada’s auto industry through its inaction on trade and wrongheaded feebate
program, which have encouraged the purchase of offshore vehicles and are destroying Canada’s important auto jobs.
Even Harper’s recent cabinet shuffle has done little to change the path that this government has set for Canada – one that fails to address the concerns of
working people and provides no solid plan for the future.
Collectively, we can set Canada on a new course.
We must demand that our government take immediate action in addressing the global trade imbalance that is hurting Canadian industry, and in turn Canadian
workers. We must ensure that all public tax dollars support our domestic economy by developing a “Buy Canadian” procurement policy. And we must insist
that our government defend Canadian industry by regulating foreign investment and controlling the dollar.
Canadians know that there is a lot at stake. Our jobs, our communities and our future depend on the decisions we make today.
As we continue to build on the success of our manufacturing campaign, and keep the pressure on our politicians to hear our demands, the words of Walter
Reuther will ring loud and clear: “Let’s go to work and let’s make this fight and let’s win together.”
Source: CAW NewsNow
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