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Ritch Whyman

November 5, 2020

The decision by the Canadian Labour Congress leadership to join with the notoriously anti-union Chamber of Commerce and support ex-finance minister Bill Morneaus desire to be the head of the OECD has been met with scorn and condemnation across the labour movement.

It was his firm Morneau/Shepell that over saw the dramatic slashing of Stelco pensioner’s benefits, when US Steel was in trusteeship. While slashing benefits Morneau was happily pocketing fees and enriching himself on the backs of retired steelworkers.

Morneau and his firm have spent the better part of their existence lobbying and fighting to change pension laws to enable Bay Street to be able to plunder them.

As Finance Minister Morneau oversaw repeated attacks on worker’s rights. He pushed for Bill C-27 which if successful would have rolled back pension plans and jeopardized retirement security for millions of workers. He further was a central part of Liberal Government that broke the postal workers strike, refused to fix the Phoenix pay scandal that left and continues leave federal employees unpaid. 

That any labour organization would endorse Morneau for anything short of the gallows is nothing short of a betrayal.

This action and other by the CLC, such as partnering with the Chamber of Commerce over COVID recommendations, makes it clear that it is time for rank and file workers to demand their leaders clean house at the CLC. 

Already many unions have condemned this. USWA, NUPGE, CUPW, UFCW, numerous labour councils and locals have come out in opposition.

But changing the top of an organisation that has become nearly irrelevant in the fight for worker’s rights won’t fix the problem. What is needed is a strategy to build power at the base of the unions, in the workplaces and through mobilizing members to fight the coming COVID austerity measures. 

But that will take demands from workers that their leadership step up and move beyond tired postcard, lobbying and email campaigns. The actions of Alberta nurses, Dominion store workers in Newfoundland, and Cleaners in BC show that where there is a clear lead workers are willing to fight back.

Endorsing Morneau only shows how far the CLC leadership is from the mood on the ground. 

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