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Unifors Jerry Dias Calls Out The Greedy;
Sierra Club Leader Says UAW Natural Partner

Unifor's Jerry Dias:
Union Members Are Sick Of Playing Defense: It's Time To Play Offense

Adult children are coming back home and it’s a direct result of corporate greed, Unifor President Jerry Dias told delegates at the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention.

They live in a world that’s turned upside down: They can’t find jobs that support a decent standard of living and when they borrow tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade their skills of education, they wind up underemployed and over their heads in debt.

“We told our young people, ‘Go to school, get an education, get your college diploma, get your university education, upgrade your skills and your job will be waiting for you when you are finished,” said Dias, who leads Canada’s largest private-sector union, said. “They end up working part-time, precarious jobs because they’ve been betrayed.”

But they are fighting back. Dias said Canadians are watching as fast-food and other low-wage workers take on greedy corporations whose executives are hauling in millions while paying substandard wages.

“Corporate greed has no conscience. Our members on your side of the border and our side of the border have been to hell and back,” said the president of Unifor, which was formed last year when the Canadian Auto Workers merged with the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union. “You know why we formed Unifor in Canada? Because we’re sick and tired of playing defense and is about time we all started to play offense!”

His union is doing just that. The straightforward former aerospace worker told delegates his union isn’t afraid to use strikes or the threat of strikes to get members the wage increases they deserve or to save their plants. And Unifor stands ready to back our union in upcoming bargaining.

“Right now Unifor and the UAW need each other more than ever and I promise you this, and you take this as my solemn word: If you have a dispute in the United States because your members are fighting to improve their working conditions, there will be not one part from Canada that will come across the border that will weaken your bargaining position,” he said to a standing ovation.

Dias said his union is watching the politics in the United States and had strong words for anti-worker conservatives in the United States such as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and others who fight against a strong middle class.

“I listen to the foolishness of some of your politicians. I listen to Nikki Haley of South Carolina who says she doesn’t want any employers to come to South Carolina if they have a relationship with the union movement she doesn’t want them to ‘taint the waters.’ So I say to the Haleys, the Walkers, the Snyders and the Corkers of the world: You can kiss my union ass!”

Perhaps not as colorful, but just as insightful, was Sierra Club President Michael Brune who told delegates that the UAW and his 2.4-million member organization were natural partners in the progressive movement. The UAW, he said, provided most of the resources for the first Earth Day in 1970 and that our support for the environmental movement went well beyond financial contributions.

Brune said his organization – whose employees are members of UAW Local 2103 in San Francisco -- understands how regular people can make a difference in the communities and the world through the power of a union. Both groups have shared values of justice, fairness and responsibility.

Sierra Club's Brune: Opponents of labor and the environment flooding airwaves with ads that distort positions of both groups.
“Let’s be honest: Not everybody shares these values. Not everyone believes in shouldering this common responsibility,” said Brune, who grew up on the New Jersey shore and became involved in environmental causes after seeing beaches polluted with hypodermic needles and other debris. “They tell us that we can’t afford to be fair. They try to tell us that we can’t afford to do what’s right for workers and we can’t afford to do what’s right for the environment.”

They dispute that we can create jobs and protect the environment at the same time. Brune said these groups and people are afraid of innovation that will create jobs, create more fairness and less economic inequality.

The UAW is helping to lead us into the future, but it is in jeopardy because of economic inequality, he added. Big corporations, including some of the biggest polluters in the world, have outsized influence.

“The same polluters, the same executives that are polluting our air, polluting our water, polluting our atmosphere, are polluting our democracy,” Brune said. “They are flooding the airwaves with ads that distort worker protections and environmental protections. They are filling the coffers of candidates who will do everything they can to roll back worker rights and environmental rights. And if they can’t buy the candidate, they’ll suppress the vote.”

Brune urged us to work together to reverse policies that have lowered union representation, spread the word that renewable energy saves families money and reject forever “the selfish few who don’t give a damn about the public good.”


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