CAW’s Buzz Hargrove passes the torch

Successor Ken Lewenza hails from Local 444 in Windsor, Ont.

Buzz Hargrove, who’s stepping down as president of the Canadian Autoworkers in September, has thrown his support behind Ken Lewenza, president of Local 444 in Windsor, as successor of the largest private-sector union in the country.

Like Hargrove, Lewenza comes from the largest local in the CAW, representing workers from such diverse employers as Chrysler, auto parts companies, the Windsor Casino, and the Windsor cab company.

The 53-year-old won the endorsement of the CAW’s national executive board in a 12-2 vote this week. In response, two of Hargrove’s assistants, Tom Collins and Hemi Mitic, withdrew from the race for president. Lewenza still has to win the support of the majority of 800 delegates at a special convention to be held before Hargove’s departure on Sept. 15.

“Kenny is the guy that will bring a rich history of experience from collective bargaining, social activism and political activism,” Hargrove said in a press conference Tuesday. “Everybody works hard for the union, but I think everybody would agree that nobody works harder than Ken.”

When he steps down after a 16-year run as Canada’s best known union leader, Hargrove would be six months shy of 65, the age of mandatory retirement at the union.

Hargrove told a news conference he is stepping down early to avoid a lengthy leadership campaign that could divide the union. Hargrove said he remains focused on trying to resolve a dispute with General Motors, which announced last month it will close its Oshawa, Ont., truck plant, resulting in a job loss of as many as 2,600.

He was tight-lipped about what’s next for him. Two universities have approached him to consider a gig as lecturer, but no political party has asked him to run in the next federal election.

One thing is for certain: “I’m not going to sit in a rocking chair. I’m not going to play golf — it’s not my style,” said Hargrove.

“I’ve a lot of energy with a lot of ideas. I’ve had some people talk tome already but I’m not able to share that publicly today.”

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