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SEIU Canadian Autonomy Plan Approved by Pittsburgh Convention

SEIU press release, 23 May 2000

PITTSBURGH, May 23 /CNW/ - More than a thousand delegates to the international convention of the Service Employees International Union yesterday gave unanimous approval to a plan that gives autonomy to the 85,000 member Canadian section of the union.

The plan will see Canadian members set their own policies, budgets and dues and elect their own officers at a Canadian Convention. The union will also have a Canadian executive board and a Canadian Council of Presidents to govern the union between conventions.

The Canadian autonomy plan had been in the works for 18 months and was unanimously approved in February by delegates from SEIU locals across the country. Yesterday's vote at the international convention formalizes the process that began in November, 1998.

"This resolution is not meant to separate Canadian from the international union but to respect the distinct differences in our union," said SEIU Canadian Vice-President Sharleen Stewart, speaking in favour of the resolution from the convention floor.

"I am very, very proud," she said. "We have joined hands with our brothers and sisters in Quebec for the first time in our history and we will go forward with one voice." Previously, Quebec and the rest of Canada had been represented in two different Conferences of the union.

"This is an historic time, especially for our members in Quebec," said Raymond Forget, President of Montreal-based SEIU Local 298. "For 50 years, we have been affiliated with the international union and now we can join the rest of the labour movement in Canada.

"In Canada and Quebec, we have many battles to fight for our universal, public health care system. As part of the great international family, together we will rise to the challenges."

Mark Ortlieb, President of SEIU Local 204, based in Ontario, said he was "proud to join our colleagues in Quebec" and pledged to work together with the rest of the Canadian locals in a united force.

International President Andrew Stern has given his ongoing support to the process. He said he looked forward to working with Canadian members as they make crucial decisions to meet the challenges they face.

Stern announced on Sunday at the convention's opening session that the SEIU is now the largest union in North America, with 1.4 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico. The international convention, held every four years, wraps up tomorrow.

Note: Spokesperson Collin Gribbons is attending the convention and can arrange for interviews with Sharleen Stewart.

For further information: Collin Gribbons, (416) 721-4532 (cell); Ann Decter, (416) 706-4686