Corporate-defined globalization may be "a race to the bottom for working people," said Canadian union leader Buzz Hargrove. But globalization doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to struggle. The president of the fast-growing, 215,000-member Canadian Auto Workers union, delivered a hard-hitting message of challenge to corporate power and the need for a revitalized labor movement.
"We are responsible for this incredible wealth creation," Hargrove said. "We don’t have to accept less."
The union leader completely rejected the argument that decisions made by corporations are beyond the control of national governments. And he rejected as "silly" the argument that strikes are obsolete. The CAW has a slogan, Hargrove said: "Fighting back makes a difference." That doesn’t mean a fight every time the union meets with the boss. And not every fight brings victory. But not fighting guarantees that workers lose.
The CAW leader told delegates that his union has had "a major fight" with Canada’s labor-backed third party, the New Democratic Party, over its rightward drift. Labor’s friends can’t be allowed to do to us what we would never allow our enemies to do. Principles must be placed before power, Hargrove declared. It’s unacceptable that there should be homelessness or lack of access to decent medical care or education amidst great wealth.
Hargrove called for an activist labor movement, democratic in structure, capable of winning the respect and interest of young people, and condemned the willingness of unions to agree to long-term collective agreements, of five, six and even 15 years’ duration.
The CAW believes in social unionism, in a kind of unionism that reaches out to the community and joins in coalitions, Hargrove said. We make progress when we identify with the underprivileged and voiceless, not the rich.
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