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CLC convention opens in Vancouver

Hassan Yussuff, CLC Secretary-Treasurer, opened the 26th Constitutional Convention this morning. He asked representatives from the Musqueam Nation to bring greetings and to welcome delegates to Coast Salish Territory. Elder Rose Point reminded those present to “pass our knowledge to future generations with open minds and open hearts.” She told delegates that “the good you do today, some people may forget, but do good anyway.”.

Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour, also welcomed delegates to Vancouver and emphasized labour’s need to hold governments and corporations to account when dealing with workers’ health and safety. He noted two recent deaths of construction workers, including one at the convention centre.

Mayor Gregor Robertson told the convention that Vancouver “is one of the most liveable cities because of our unionized workforce.” He said local unions stepped up to the plate during the recent Olympic Games and he thanked the CLC for its contributions to electing a progressive government in his city.

Delegates to the convention were treated to a tribute to former CLC President Shirley Carr who died on June 24, 2010.

Georgetti says use new media to get message out

CLC President Ken Georgetti is calling on the labour movement to use every form of media available to tell its positive story. He was speaking to the 2600 delegates and visitors at the CLC’s 26th Constitutional Convention occurring in Vancouver. “We have to make the winning argument that a strong labour movement whose members have good wages and benefits lifts everyone up, including non-union workers and all businesses. Because without unions, the standard of living will drop for everyone,” Georgetti said.

He said that there are powerful forces that oppose the union agenda of good jobs for all and more equality in society. “Too often unions are portrayed negatively, inaccurately and unfairly. Put simply, we’ve been framed. Framed by our opponents, by big business, in the media they own and by right-wing governments.” Georgetti added, “We must examine our public image as unions and be willing to reconsider our strategies to address it ... and through an improved public image and the use of accessible social media like Twitter, FacebookThis link will open in a new window, texting and the internet, we are going to step completely out of their distorted frame, starting at this convention.”

Georgetti said, however, that the improved use of media by unions has already begun. He pointed to labour’s advocacy to win improvements to the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans. “We have shown with our CPP/QPP campaign that when we go on the offensive with labour’s issues, it is our opponents who are forced to react and who cannot control the debate.” See our website for a complete text of the speech.

“Not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong”

With those words, Ken Georgetti welcomed Academy Award winning director Charles Ferguson to the stage at the CLC convention. Those same words were used by Ferguson himself the night he accepted the best documentary Oscar for his film Inside Job, a hard-hitting expose of the financial and regulatory negligence that resulted in the biggest economic collapse in 80 years.

Ferguson warned delegates that without change the American people should expect another, equally devastating financial collapse within 15 years. “The sheer concentration of wealth and political power among a very few people, and the ongoing social and educational distress among so many does not bode well for America,” he warned. The more people who get left behind, the more America as a country falls behind the rest of the world, he said, and he added that Canadians need to be worried about such events as well.
A special screening of Inside Job, sponsored by the Labour College of Canada, took place later Monday evening, and Ferguson was on hand to meet and greet CLC delegates.

Good jobs for all

The economic system is not performing for working people in Canada. That message was loud and clear as the Economic and Social Policy Committee introduced their report to the CLC convention. The report shows that the economy has failed to deliver good jobs, better standards of living, decent workplaces, and equal, inclusive societies. The session passed resolutions that set out key building blocks of a new economic model – one which puts forward labour’s vision for a much more democratic economy and a fairer society.

Foreign ownership was raised as a vital issue with respect to protecting the interests of Canadian workers and their communities. There was a call for a stringent review of foreign takeovers, including those in the broadcasting industry. One delegate said that if broadcasting was controlled by huge US corporations, the Canadian version of a popular television show would be called CSI – Moose Jaw.

The issue of migrant workers drew passionate debate. Delegates heard that the plight of some temporary foreign workers resembles modern day slavery. The afternoon’s debate also dealt with issues such as green jobs and a national energy strategy.

United Way announces buy Canadian policy

The President of the United Way of Canada told a cheering crowd of delegates to the CLC convention that, starting June 1, all products purchased for sale as part of United Way fund raising will be Canadian-made, union-made and green. The change in policy coincides with a new, activist approach to fighting poverty – an approach Hatton challenged national unions and union locals to support and join.

Speaking as part of a series that focuses on how unions make a difference, Hatton praised the continued generosity of union members, noting that even in the face of an economic downturn, the support never wavered.

Journalist challenges labour to stand up to the Conservative agenda

Hundreds of delegates and labour activists came together for an evening of solidarity, spectacular entertainment and challenging words on Sunday at the Human Rights Forum.
Following greetings from CLC Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yussuff, delegates were treated to a mesmerizing, high-energy performance of traditional aboriginal hoop dancing by three-time world champion Alex Wells.

Keynote speaker Haroon Siddiqui later challenged the audience to recognize that while the Conservative Party has earned the right to govern by virtue of its own winning “divide and conquer” strategy, it is the labour movement’s responsibility to hold the government accountable.

“While Canadians have conferred a majority mandate on Mr. Harper, they have not crowned him King of Canada; he said himself on election night that he intends to be Prime Minister for all Canadians. Your job is to make sure that he is,” said Saddiqui.

The award-winning journalist challenged activists in the room to match Conservative strategies with new strategies of their own, including modern tactics that engage people where they live and work.

The CLC’s Yussuff acknowledged the hard work and dedication of several trade union activists who are retiring from their roles as Equity Vice Presidents: Sonia Reynolds (SEIU) and Philip Paul (CAW) from Workers of Colour; Darren Patrick (COPE) from Aboriginal Workers; Victor Elkins (CUPE) from Solidarity & Pride; and Lynn Taylor (CUPE/HEU) from Workers with Disabilities.

Tuesday @ Convention9:35 a.m. Panel Presentation: "What Derailed the Post-War Social Contract"
12:00 p.m. Economic & Social Policy Resolutions: Committee Report
2:05 p.m. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC
3:30 p.m. Wendy Cukier, Coalition for Gun Control, President and Co-founder
3:35 p.m. Report of the Commission on Structural Review
7:00 p.m. Young Workers Forum "Building a Movement One Campaign at a Time"

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Follow us on Twitter @CanadianLabour. The convention hashtag is #clcmay11
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