By James Napier
The membership of Unifor Local 222 has issued a stunning rebuke to Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
At the Local 222 general membership meeting on February 1, two motions were passed that opposed the sudden, destructive action taken by Dias on January 16, to pull Unifor out of the house of labour. The Canadian labour movement has been in turmoil since, with the Unifor staff trying desperately to raid hotel workers belonging to UNITE HERE Local 75 (with limited success). The incredible momentum that had been built in support of Tim Hortons workers has suffered a setback. Meanwhile, a few top union officials have given up any pretence of principle and are scrambling to hold on to their 6 figure salaries.
The Local 222 motions are based on solid, working class principles. The first motion called on Dias to reverse the disaffiliation:
As members of Unifor Local 222 we are disappointed that you have taken the action of disaffiliating our union from Canada’s central labour body, the Canadian Labour Congress. While you obtained the endorsement of the National Executive Board for this drastic step, there was no advance notice to the broader members or local leaders of Unifor. As a result, the NEB endorsed your request before they had a chance to hear any of the views of our members.
The second motion endorsed an appeal (in the terminology of the Unifor Constitution, a ‘request for review’) of the NEB decision, because Dias had “violated the democratic rights of Unifor members in several ways”.
The two motions can be read in full here:
Local 222 has great historical importance. The April 1937 strike by GM workers in Oshawa was the impetus for the establishment of industrial unionism in Canada. In 1970, the Local 222 Women’s Committee led the fight against separate seniority rights for men and women workers that resulted in major improvements in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the banning of such discrimination. Local 222 has now taken a courageous stand against the undemocratic actions of Jerry Dias and his entourage. Other Unifor locals should follow this lead.
Union principles or self-interest?
When Unifor announced they were no longer affiliated to the CLC and would no longer be paying their dues, it called into question the status of Unifor members who had been elected to leadership positions on the CLC Executive, on provincial Federations of Labour, and on local Labour Councils. Hassan Yussuff, for example, had been elected President of the CLC as a Unifor member – in fact Jerry Dias probably spent a million dollars bussing in people to vote for him. Under the CLC Constitution, Hassan Yussuff has no legitimacy to hold office and should step down immediately. He has been sending letters to other Unifor members holding office – such as this one sent to CLC Vice-President Dan Browne, who was elected to represent young workers:
“Dear Brother Browne: Due to the decision of your national union, Unifor, to disaffiliate from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), we regret to inform you that you cannot continue to serve as a Vice-President on the CLC Canadian Council.”
And then, reaching new depths of hypocrisy, Yussuff announced that he could continue collecting his President’s salary because he had obtained a membership card from the PSAC. Ordinary workers, whose dues fund the offices and 6 figure salaries of Hassan Yussuff and Jerry Dias, must be furious. The average wage of a Unifor member is $23.78 an hour, or under $50,000 a year. We can no longer tolerate union executives who are more focussed on enriching themselves than on working to improve the lives of workers.
This was first published on the Unifor Solidarity Network website.