Members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger with the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union in Quebec City today — a move that will create the country’s largest private-sector union.
During a press conference following the vote at the CEP’s Convention 2012, CEP president Dave Coles said more than 90 per cent of members endorsed the merger.
At their convention in Toronto in August, the CAW voted unanimously in favour of the new super-union, which would represent more than 300,000 members in 20 economic sectors.
Union representatives have pushed for the marriage of the two unions to ensure the protection of their members and to revitalize the national labour movement.
“This isn’t just a step forward for the labour movement. It’s a step forward for progressive people in this country,” said Coles. “It sends a very clear message, we believe, to the conservatives and any other political group that thinks that they can attack workers.”
The two unions plan to hold a founding convention next year, during which they will lay out plans for the new union’s image, said Peter Kennedy, secretary-treasurer for the CAW. He said the two sides will announce a “new name, new identity and new purpose,” some time in 2013.
Ken Lewenza, national president of the CAW, said the new union will be built on activism and justice, and will focus on the collective impact on communities.
“We have to be relevant,” he said. “And this brings us down to the grassroots of every community. The union will be community-based with a broad reach and collective reach. The more voices you have the stronger your union is.”
Reps from both unions expressed a desire to revitalize the labour movement by including under-represented groups, such as retirees, students and the unemployed.
“Workers are entitled to a stronger voice,” Lewenza added. “This wasn’t just about the labour movements; it’s about building a different country.”
When asked whether they have considered running for leadership of the super-union, the presidents said a discussion on that front has not yet taken place.
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