By Buzz Hargrove, CAW National President
TORONTO, Aug. 28 /CNW/ - In the final weeks and days of my tenure as
president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, I am troubled by the sheer
volume of bad news stories that are emerging from the economy in Canada and
around the world.
Government resources diverted to propagate wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and
more recently Georgia have left citizens questioning the priorities of those
they elect. Oil and food prices have soared to the point of making basic
necessities out of reach for far too many people. Combine this with a global
financial capital crisis that has seen millions of people lose their jobs,
their homes and their life savings and the shift of production of manufactured
goods to developing countries, it becomes clearer that these challenges point
to a fundamental shift in the economy and perhaps even a change in our social
What working people are faced with today is more than just the boom and
bust that we have known in decades past. Severe infrastructure deficits and
social program strains are a product of wrong-headed tax cuts that have
catered to the business and corporate classes over time. Income inequality and
the persistence of poverty are deeply connected to the absence of important
industrial policies designed to promote good, family-supporting jobs. And the
restructuring of our economy away from value-added manufacturing toward
heavily polluting resource extraction is a result of poor economic management
and misguided trade policy.
Our economy is at a critical juncture. As we head into Labour Day this
weekend - and a possible federal election in the coming weeks and a U.S.
election this fall - we have an opportunity to reflect on the current state of
our country and demand more from our elected leaders, who up to this point,
have lead us all down a dangerous path.
The challenge that lies ahead, although seemingly insurmountable, must be
seen as an opportunity, a springboard for working people to question the
political and economic choices that are being made on their behalf.
As working people, we must insist on the re-focusing of our economy in
the interests of Canadians - all Canadians. From the ones who assist the
elderly in long term care homes to those who work in the country's highly
productive but rapidly disappearing manufacturing sector - all citizens have a
vested interest in having a greater say in what our economy looks like.
It's clear that this already started to happen. This past spring,
citizens spoke out against the sale of the space division of MacDonald,
Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) to U.S. arms manufacturer Alliant Techsystems.
What was at stake was a shining example of Canadian innovation, funded by
Canadian taxpayers through government subsidies. Citizens would not tolerate
it - the sale was stopped.
Many Canadians are demanding their tax dollars be used wisely - such as
support regional development initiatives, and supporting government efforts to
use public funds to buy Canadian products.
Canadians are also speaking out against the false promises of right-wing
governments and pundits that free trade, deregulation and privatization
policies would bring about prosperity and higher standards of living -
policies that have only made things worse for millions of workers.
In the U.S., we see this in the momentum that has gathered behind
Democrat presidential hopeful Barack Obama in the vision of change that he
symbolizes. Here in Canada, we can harness this energy for our own goals from
reversing the growing equality gap to bringing home our troops.
Change is on the agenda. There's no doubt. And labour has an important
role to play. This Labour Day, it's important that unions recommit themselves
to being the vehicle for this change - moving it beyond rhetoric and making it
a reality for Canadians.
I've seen a lot of changes during my 16 years as the president of the
Canadian Auto Workers union. Our union has grown from 170,000 in 1992 to over
250,000 members, today. The CAW now represents workers in all parts of the
economy, which makes us stronger as whole.
Workers recognize that when they get together in a union, they can exert
far more power than they ever could as individuals. Power to make our
workplaces safer and more tolerable, power to make our communities stronger
through public health care, well-funded schools, fair trade and environmental
sustainability to name a few.
The diversity of our union has strengthened the organization and expanded
its scope, something that has made me immensely proud.
Union members, with their diverse experiences and progressive vision for
a stronger and more equal Canada, are well-positioned to move this fight for
change forward. To be the platform on which the voices of all Canadians can be
heard. And to strengthen the resolve of all citizens to believe that, at this
critical moment, together we can lead Canada toward a better future.
For further information:
For further information: please contact CAW Communications, Shannon
Devine, (cell) (416) 302-1699 or Angelo DiCaro, (cell) (416) 606-6311