Leaders of the Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union are joining forces to build a new trade union to better respond to the new economic and political order in Canada and around the world.
A "confidential" discussion paper which has been distributed widely says the two unions are contemplating much more than a merger of two large (primarily private sector) unions.
"…the Canadian labour movement in 2011 needs revitalization, greater strength and a new social influence…CEP and CAW have an opportunity now to lead and shape this change, rather than waiting passively and having change forced upon us," the document states.
The idea is not to create a bigger union but something new and different "founded on a desire and willingness to modernize our practices, to innovate with new models of organizing and servicing, and to rebuild our image with workers."
The new union would define itself by its political and strategic orientation, not by the type of worker represented. The purpose of the union would be to shape the economic, political and social landscape of Canada and would see itself as a movement-builder with impact well beyond its members and their workplaces.
The vision for this new union is ambitious and forward-looking and reminiscent of other historical moves to reposition organized labour to defend and advance working class interests more broadly by increasing internal capacity and by expanding its reach to other organized and unorganized sectors of society. With a protocol and timetable now in place for moving forward, this looks like a serious effort to make fundamental change - one of the most exciting and challenging initiatives in the Canadian labour movement that we have seen in a long time.