UNIFOR vs the CLC vs ATU vs UNITE-HERE vs what the hell are we doing here?

I’m no longer in the business, so take this rant with a bucket of salt and an understanding that I have no actual, credible insider information but I see UNIFOR’s Leave the House of Labour™ move as a short term tactic to win changes to the Congress’s raiding rules which I think they could resolve before the next per capita cheque is overdue.

First, no union in the CLC has any moral high ground to hold over the others about displacements (that’s the official labour relations jargon for one union replacing another). They all do it.

Second, no union in these disputes has any moral high ground to hold over the others about democracy, self-determination etc etc. They all hold these banners aloft when it suits them, tolerate it when they must, and discard it when the chips are down.

Third, unions try to displace other unions because it’s easier than organizing new ones. There’s a collective agreement in place. There’s a membership structure present in the workplace. You don’t have to convince the workers that unions are worthwhile. They know that already. You just have to convince them that you’re better. And unions need victories these days. And any victory will do.

The Three Beefs of Jerry Dias

So Jerry Dias’ letter to his former comrade mentions three beefs. UNIFOR wants:

  1. ATU 113
  2. UNITE-HERE 75
  3. Membership on the committee that will shape the CLC’s raiding rules (presumably to allow numbers one and two to happen)

Number 3 is easy. One and two will ultimately be decided by the members in labour board-supervised votes. The question is, can the legal displacement process play out with UNIFOR, ATU and UNITE-HERE sitting around the same board room table on Riverside Drive, nuzzeling up to the same spread at conventions etc etc.

The raiding rules (Article 4) were designed to let that happen. And the Congress really doesn’t have any room to play with them. So going back to them and agreeing possibly to some third party arbitration of elements of the dispute where there’s no agreement on the facts seems to me to be the only way out.

The motherships at ATU and UNITE-HERE won’t be keen on possibly having to run a campaign to justify their existence. But they did agree to the rules. UNIFOR will be able to claim victory because they got on the committee and “the members will get to decide”. They won’t be happy either, however, as they won’t be able to win new members on the strength of minority support on a local executive board.

At least this will resolve the dispute at the level of top leadership (if you want to call it that) and leave labour councils, provincial federations and individual union locals relatively free to do the work that I think everyone agrees still needs to be done.