September 8, 2008
CAW Convention delegates elect Ken Lewenza new National President
Ken Lewenza (Photo: Dan Janisse, The Windsor Star)
 
On September 6/08, delegates representing CAW members from across Canada elected Ken
Lewenza as the new national president to lead the country’s largest private sector union.
Lewenza, former CAW Local 444 president and former CAW Council president, replaces Buzz
Hargrove, who after 16 years as CAW president gave his final speech this morning.

With tough economic times slamming manufacturing and other economic sectors and a
federal election call, Lewenza outlined an agenda of hope and inspiration for CAW
members.  He urged CAW members to take an active role in building a stronger future for
workers, their families and communities, including keeping Stephen Harper out of
government.

“Does anyone believe that the real face of Stephen Harper is the one we see governing with
a minority?” Lewenza said.  “The real face of Stephen Harper is the one from the Reform
Party, the one from the right-wing National Citizen’s Coalition and the one that will dismantle
our country and make it unrecognizable to us today.”

He dismissed recent announcements by the Harper government to put money into the auto
industry, after the government refused earlier funding requests up until several days before
an election call.
Ken Lewenza, new CAW National
President speaking to delegates to the
CAW Special Convention on September 6
(Photo: Windsor Star)
 

“Where is Stephen Harper on a long-term strategy to preserve manufacturing jobs?” asked Lewenza.  “What we need is a Made in
Canada industrial policy, one that allows us to build a strong economy and create jobs.”

The fight to protect quality public health care and to stop the federal government from entering unfair trade agreements that
undermine working people must remain top priorities during election, he said.

Lewenza also stressed that he would continue to build the diversity of the union and reach out and organize low wage workers and
the 70 per cent of Canadian workers who remain unorganized.

In a brief and moving speech Hargrove described the many changes that have occurred during his tenure as CAW president,
including the growth of the membership from 170,000 in 1992 to approximately 250,000 members today and the expanding of the
union’s vision to include workers in sectors such as gaming, health care, post-secondary schools and retail.

“My pride has been that we’ve been able to open up the organization for all people,” said Hargrove. Under Hargrove’s stewardship,
the union merged with more than 30 other unions, bringing in a greater number of women, youth and workers of colour.

He said it’s critical for CAW members to take on the right wing Stephen Harper agenda in the coming federal election.

But Hargrove also stressed CAW members must continue to play an active role after the election in fighting for equality, social
justice, better working conditions and progressive policies.

“The incredible challenges working people face today will only intensify should Stephen Harper win a majority government,”
Hargrove said.  “We all must work to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine also spoke to the crowd of 1000 delegates, union staff and guests.  He called
Hargrove a tireless advocate of all peoples, who strongly believes all people need to be treated fairly and justly.

Fontaine and Hargrove recently returned from a trip to the Yukon to visit Little Salmon Carmacks where CAW skilled trades
volunteers worked at repairing 27 contaminated wells this past summer.  The volunteers will return next summer to repair the
remaining 30 wells.

Lewenza, 54, is the third CAW national president elected since the formation of the Canadian union in 1985.  Hargrove’s
predecessor was Bob White who served as national president from 1985 to 1992 before moving on to become president of the
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

Source:  CAW NewsNow

Related:
September 1, 2008 - CAW National Council 4000 endorse and support Ken Lewenza and Peter Kennedy
September 1, 2008 - CAW to hold Special Convention on September 6th to elect new National President
August 27, 2008 - CAW Skilled Trades Council Executive endorse Ken Lewenza and Peter Kennedy
August 27, 2008 - CAW President Buzz Hargrove announces he will retire this September