A local Canadian Auto Workers leader has hope the creation of Canada's largest private-sector union will level the playing field against what he calls "greedy" corporations.
On Monday, members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger at their convention in Quebec City.
"You can feel the charge and energy in regards to where people stood on knowing that this is what makes sense," said CAW Local 444 president Dino Chiodo. "This is the right thing to do especially when we are looking at our members and trying to do what’s in their best interests and this [merger] does exactly that."
He calls the vote a huge leap forward for the country's labour force.
"It's a win-win for working-class people to be able to see this type of progress with making a private-sector union as large as this and really looking at expanding, so it's exciting, it's awesome," said Chiodo, who represents Chrysler workers in Windsor.
CAW delegates already voted in favour of the new union proposal when they met at their convention Aug. 22 in Toronto.
The merger comes in response to multiple attacks on the country's labour force, including several pieces of back-to-work legislation passed by the federal government, Chiodo said.
"I’m confident now more than ever that we are going in the right direction and we’re doing obviously what is necessary and that’s creating an organization that can withstand the attacks and battles that are put in front of his from corporations and corporate greed," said Chiodo.
Unions must agree on new name
But there will be many hurdles before the official merger takes place, including finding a suitable name, Chiodo cautioned.
"It’s just a name," he said. "We are the union."
Chiodo said this "massive movement" reaches far beyond the members.
"It’s an historic event for us to be able to come together like this and not only look after unionized members, but with this structure in place look after people who are less fortunate, non-unionized, precarious working people," said Chiodo. "Look at people who are students going to school and allow them to participate in a union movement."
Both unions could survive independently, Chiodo said, but a merger would create a stronger, more unified front.
"All people are looking for is dignity and respect and the employers and the one per cent have been taking it away for a long time," said Chiodo. "I think this puts a little bit more balance back in the system to say that we are ready for the challenges that are ahead of us."
A founding convention will be held in early 2013, where the new name will be chosen.
A series of committees will determine how to successfully accomplish the merger and ensure the needs of all parties are met, Chiodo said.
He hopes to double the union's membership, which sits at about 300,000 workers.