[Marxism] The CAW and Magna agreement
pance at rogers.com
Sat Oct 20 09:53:31 MDT 2007
The left in Canada used to look up to the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) as a
shining example of proud Canadian confrontational trade unionism -
especially after the break with the United Auto Workers (UAW).
Today, the CAW joins the list of company-unions. They signed a "Yellow Dog"
agreement with Magna (auto-parts company) where they give up many union
Sam Gindin, a former CAW Chief Economist at the time of the break with the
UAW, has written a scathing analysis of the deal, plus other articles below.
The CAW and Magna:
Disorganizing the Working Class
In the neoconservative Canada of the late 1990s, the labour movement needs
to become more militant, less accommodating to the demands of corporations
and governments. If this sounds like a return to the days of the 1930s or
1950s, so be it. It's either that or watch decades of hard-won gains
disappear. This resistance will mean arrests, charges, maybe even jail terms
for some of our leaders and members. But if we are to check this massive
wave of unfairness, we simply have no alternative. - Buzz Hargrove, Labour
of Love (1998), pp. 88-9.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, as the attacks on past working class gains
intensified, the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) was widely recognized -
not just in North America but abroad - as standing at the forefront of
working class resistance. With the Magna-CAW Agreement signed on October 15,
2007, the CAW now seems at the forefront of working class desperation and
This startling agreement raises three sets of questions.
What is in it for Magna?
What did the CAW get out of this (other than dues)?
What are the implications for the labour movement as a whole?
Before getting to these questions, it is useful to return to the foundations
of independent unionism (still taught in CAW educationals) and consider how
they relate to the 'Magna Model' the CAW has turned to.
What are unions as independent organizations?
The contradiction that has always faced working people is that they are
dependent on their employers for work, yet need to create a degree of
independence so they can address their own, distinct needs.
The foundation for that independence was a democratic organization of
workers - a 'union.' It resonated with workers because it was truly
'theirs'; it was a space within which the employer had no say. In practice
the innovation of shop stewards, workers elected from various sections of
the workplace, was crucial. The stewards represented workers in their daily
struggles with management and also acted as mentors and leaders in the
development of a culture of solidarity. Against the god of profits and the
devil of competitiveness, workers and their unions developed their own
understanding of the world and formulated distinct working class values.
Coverage in today's Toronto Star:
Hargrove gambles with Magna deal
Tony Van Alphen -- Business Reporter
A controversial agreement between Magna International Inc. and the Canadian
Auto Workers that eliminates the right to strike is a "betrayal" of labour
principles and a blatant "dues grab," say some past and current leaders of
In stinging and sometimes searing criticism, the leaders slam CAW president
Buzz Hargrove and other union officials for negotiating the historic deal
this week that will lead to voluntary recognition of the union at Magna if
workers vote in favour of a first contract at individual plants.
Under the deal, workers would not have the right to strike but Magna could
not lock them out either. Disputes would be settled through binding
Critics of the deal say the loss of the right to strike, the selection of
worker representatives and other provisions in the CAW-Magna "Framework of
Fairness" agreement undermines the union, weakens other locals in the auto
parts sector and could seriously hurt the labour movement.
"This is a travesty," said Gerry Michaud, retired president of CAW Local 199
in St. Catharines. "It makes me sick to my stomach."
Article on the NSG website:
More information about the Marxism