CAW Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History
The Canadian Auto Workers union is formed as a breakaway from the United Auto Workers. The first CAW Constitution contains
Article 2 - Objectives -"To unite all workers who are under the jurisdiction of CAW-Canada into one organization without regard to ...
sexual preference ..." This reference had not been included in the UAW Constitution. In 1994 the language is changed to "sexual
Our first CAW Lesbian and Gay caucuses are formed in Toronto and Vancouver, mainly to tackle the issue of sex-sex benefits. By
2001, we also have active caucuses in Windsor, London, the Golden Horseshoe (Ontario) and Oshawa-Toronto East- Peterborough.
Six CAW members, with the assistance of the union, file human rights complaints against Canadian Airlines for its refusal to
recognize same-sex spouses for benefit coverage. A year later a similar complaint is brought against Air Canada.
The CAW begins sending information on LGBT issues out to grievors in the form of mailings. By 1993 these 'mailings' became the
CAW Black & Pink Triangle newsletter - photocopies of relevant articles and updates.
CAW successfully negotiates same-sex pension benefits at CAMI. The union forces the company to have same-sex pension benefits
paid out of general revenue, until the pension issue with the federal government can be resolved (which doesn't take place until
1998 in Rosenberg v. Canada).
The first lesbian caucus at a CAW Women's Conference is held on a patio in the Cove at Port Elgin. A year later the first official
Lesbian and Gay caucus is held at our 1994 CAW Convention in Quebec City.
CAW successfully negotiates same-sex pension benefits at Northern Telecom. By October of 1994, we have same-sex benefits at
Nissan, Windsor Plastics, Art Gallery of Ontario, Pinkertons, Co-op housing federation of Toronto, Brampton Hydro, CAMI, Northern
Telecom and Falconbridge Mines. Before the law changes in 2000 (which requires employers to extend spousal benefits to same-sex
couples), the CAW has successfully negotiated same-sex benefits in auto, rail, airline, hotel, auto parts -- in units with less than 100
people, to units with over 20,000 members; in units where there were some self-identified gays and lesbians; to units where there
A CAW local president comes to the microphone at April Council to challenge the union's stand in favour of negotiating same-sex
benefits. President Buzz Hargrove as well as a number of other CAW leadership, rebut the local president's points and speak
strongly in support of the Union's policy. They get a good round of applause from Council.
CAW attends the 20th Constitutional Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress. Key leaders speak in favour of a policy
statement on sexual orientation. The policy paper calls for action by leadership and rank and file to confront and eliminate
discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in the labour movement , in the workplace and in society. The paper passes
Bill 167, the Equality Rights Statutes Amendments Act, is introduced in the Ontario legislature. CAW president Buzz Hargrove writes
to the government and attends a press conference of labour leaders urging passage of the Bill. Hargrove tells the press conference
"This is clearly a question of human rights. It is long overdue. It should be supported by everyone in the legislature." Peggy Nash,
assistant to the CAW president, speaks to a Bill 167 rally in Toronto's gay village. The CAW flag is at the rally, flying high.
A policy paper entitled "Workers Rights - Human Rights: the same struggle" is adopted at the CAW Constitutional Convention. The
policy statement calls for the elimination of racism, sexism and homophobia in society and in the union. Notice of a lesbian, gay and
bisexual caucus is distributed in the kits of all the delegates and announced from the front of the hall.
A workshop entitled "Discrimination Faced by Gay and Lesbian Members" is run at the CAW Human Rights Conference. A lesbian,
gay and bisexual caucus is held.
The human rights complaint against Air Canada proceeds to a pre-hearing. A settlement is reached and all benefits except pensions
are extended. Air Ontario, Air Alliance, Air B.C. and Air Nova follow suit. A hearing is held into Air Canada's refusal to extend pension
benefits in March 1996. In September 1996, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal releases its ruling dismissing the complaint. The
Tribunal rules that Air Canada does not need to extend benefits until the federal government amends the Income Tax Act and
Pension Benefits Standards Act.
Proud members carry the CAW flag in Toronto's Pride parade.
CAW produces a black and pink triangle pin for LGB members and allies. The pin's triangles are turned upwards, joining with a
number of AIDS activists and coalition groups in signifying an active fight-back campaign.
At our CAW Collective Bargaining and Political Action Convention, delegates from all across the union vote to make bargaining
same-sex benefits a key negotiating priority. Permission to withdraw same-sex benefits from the bargaining table can only be
granted by CAW National President Buzz Hargrove.
CAW successfully negotiates same-sex benefits at General Motors (with the exception of pensions). In the same round of
bargaining, the CAW negotiates right to refuse language explicitly covering harassment at the Big Three. Grievances are
outstanding against Chrysler.
The CAW National Office and several locals send a full delegation to the first CLC Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Conference in Ottawa.
The CAW Black & Pink Triangle: Working with Pride Policy Statement is passed at our Constitutional Convention in Vancouver, B.C.
In one workplace in Ontario CAW members negotiate same-sex benefits on behalf of the twenty-five self-identified lesbians who
work in the plant. Once the benefits are announced, another twenty-two come out. That's forty-seven members that the CAW now
truly represents, workers whose wages and relationships had previously been denied.
An arbitrator orders Chrysler to provide all non-pension benefits to the partners of its lesbian and gay employees. The arbitrator did
not award pension benefits but said that Chrysler should change its policy as soon as the law changes.
A human rights complaint filed by a CAW member in 1994 against CN is finally settled. The complaint was filed when CN refused to
accept the CAW member's same-sex partner for benefit registration. As a result of the member's complaint and the mounting
decisions in favour of lesbians and gays, CN extends same-sex benefits to it employees in 1996. It still takes until 1998 for CN settle
the member's complaint with a payment for expenses and pain and suffering.
CAW Pride banners begin to reflect our growing movement - the words "Bisexual" and "Transgender" are added to the words
"Lesbian & Gay" on Regional Caucus banners. In 2001 the CAW produces an all-inclusive Pride flag: a rainbow of triangles and the
At our CAW Collective Bargaining and Political Action Convention, delegates vote to adopt bargaining proposals that recognize, for
the first time, the inclusion of transgender members in our union.
The 1st CAW National Working with Pride conference is held at our Family Education Centre in Port Elgin. Over 100 delegates from
across the country attend. The new CAW Pride poster is launched. The Conference is the springboard for the launch of two new
caucuses: Oshawa & Area Caucus, and the Golden Horseshoe Caucus, both in Ontario.
The new CAW Pride flag flies in Pride Parades across the country. CAW puts on its first float in the Toronto Parade (winning us the
distinction of 'most grassroots' by the Toronto Star), and our CAW Vancouver participation brings us an award from the Vancouver
Pride Committee. Caucuses and individual CAW members are active in Pride Parades across the country.
The newsletter "CAW Pride in Print" is officially launched and distributed to all local union presidents, recording secretaries, human
rights committees, women's committees, education committees and, of course, LGBT caucuses.
The 1st CAW Regional Working with Pride Conference is held on the West Coast, in Vancouver, British Columbia
2nd CAW National Pride Conference is held at the Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario.
A new CAW Pride Policy Statement is passed at 7th CAW Constitutional Convention in Toronto, Ontario. Commitments include
continued promotion of the one day Confronting Homophobia workshop, especially for union leadership; pro-active enforcement of
the CAW anti-harassment policy and continued negotiation of anti-harassment training in all workplaces; same-sex benefit inclusion
and expansion in collective agreements, and transgender rights; encouragement and removal of barriers to participation by LGBT
members in the union, as well as the creation of an LGBT Advisory Committee to CAW Council; activism on a host of legal initiatives
including the addition to the Criminal Code of hate crimes against the LGBT community, inclusion of gender identity within human
rights codes, amendment of documents that assume heterosexual parents, and the right to same-sex marriage.
New CAW Pride materials are produced in including a postcard, sticker, picket signs and a pamphlet/poster using the slogan
"Pride in our Union; Out in the World".
CAW Regional Pride Conference is held in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Source: CAW Human Rights Department