[Documents menu] Documents menu

From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Fri Aug 4 16:43:48 2000
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2000 15:27:34 -0500
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Marsha Niemeijer <marsha@YORKU.CA>
Subject: tough questions regarding caw-clc

Tough questions concerning the CLC sanctions against the CAW

In Labor Notes, August 2000

Hi all,

In the most recent Labor Notes issue the editors confront the readers with the following 'tough questions', concerning the CLC sanctions against the CAW. they have had little response so far. This is a complex issue and I'm sure there are many amongst you who have opinions!

It is good that Labor Notes is trying to get a debate on this going, and I know it will be of interest to the canadian and american readers of Labor Notes. so, please consider the questions below. also, forward this to as many lists as possible. with kind regards, marsha

The Canadian Auto Workers' dispute with the Canadian Labour Congress over the 30,000 health care workers who want to leave SEIU and join the CAW raises some tough questions that go beyond the particulars of that situation. We invite readers to comment on the questions below, or others, in the context of the CAW's and CLC's actions or in the context of other situations you may have encountered. We will print responses in future issues.

Q: No "Raiding"?
Are the labor movement's strict rules against "raiding" simply a protection of bureaucratic turf, treating the members like property? Or are the rules necessary to the health of the movement, preventing waste of organizing resources? If recruiting members of another union is sometimes OK, when? And how should these rules be enforced?
Q: Free for all?
If union members have a right to choose what union they're in, how can we prevent free-for-all campaigning to draw members from other unions? Can we ensure that members who choose to change unions do so based on good, complete information--not on slick, expensive PR? Does making it easy for members to switch reinforce a view of unions as service providers--as if switching unions is like switching phone companies?
Q: Reform first?
What responsibility do union members have to try to reform their current union before deciding to join another? How does one judge whether such efforts are worthwhile or a waste of energy?
Q: Sovereignty?
Are the interests of Canadian workers best served by belonging to a Canadian union or a so-called international union? Is there a different situation for auto workers or steel workers, who face transnational employers, than for health care workers? Do international unions increase cross-border solidarity--or only contribute to U.S. domination of Canadian culture and institutions?
Q: Second federation?
Would the formation of a second labor federation in Canada be too costly, in terms of unity against the boss and resources wasted on raiding? Or might the Canadian labor movement actually be strengthened if a second federation is more democratic and more militant than the CLC?
Q: Jurisdictions?
What's the relative importance of belonging to the same union as others who work in your industry? Can unions better represent workers when they specialize in a particular industry or sector? Or is it best that we move in the direction of general workers unions? How has the abandonment of jurisdictional lines (with rail workers recruited into SEIU and fishing workers into CAW, for instance) affected labor's ability to avoid and resolve disputes over members?

[Send your comments to: Labor Notes, Tough Questions, 7435 Michigan Ave, Detroit MI 48210; fax to 313/842-0227; or email <jimw@labornotes.org>.]