March 26, 2014

Labour activist calls to 'Take Back CLC'

Peoples Voice Newspaper

For the first time since 2005, there will be a contest for the presidency when the Canadian Labour Congress meets May 5-9 in Montreal. Ken Georgetti, who has led the 3 million member federation for 15 years, will be challenged by Hassan Husseini, a negotiator for the Public Service Alliance of Canada and a member of Unifor local 2025.

A long‑time labour activist, Husseini has launched a campaign to "Take Back the CLC." A statement on his campaign website says, "As workers and unions, we are facing a massive and unprecedented right wing attack. Labour and employment standards, collective bargaining rights, and the right of workers to organize and be politically active, are all targets of right wing governments at the federal and provincial levels. The labour movement is in a fight for survival as a force for progressive social change in Canadian society.

"In recent years, grassroots activism has won real gains. There is much we can learn from these successful struggles such as that of the Quebec students, Idle No More, the Toronto Library workers, the Chicago teachers and others. As CLC President I will empower and support that kind of local activism. I will help build the local leadership it takes to challenge someone like Stephen Harper, and his corporate backers....

"I will give the CLC back to the workers, because there is nothing that bosses and this federal government fear more than an organized, united and worker‑driven labour movement. We need, quite simply, a bottom‑up, grassroots movement."

Expanding on this theme, Husseini says, "Our fight isn't simply a battle for `fairness' that can be solved through clever appeals to politicians or a glitzy branding exercise. We must be willing to listen to our own members - and place their experiences at the heart of our campaigns. We must empower our members to fight the battles that lie ahead.

"We must also be honest about what we're up against. We are facing an aggressive form of capitalism that has put a target on the back of every unionized and non‑unionized worker, and anyone else standing in the way of corporate profits. Nothing is sacred, and no one's job is safe. Our opponents will stop at nothing to strip away hard‑won gains, and sacrifice them at the altar of corporate greed."

His platform includes the following points:

- Support provincial federations and labour councils and enable them to regain their role as centres of political action and mobilization at the provincial and local levels.
- Build solidarity and not walls between our affiliates and bring us all back to the table. Work with affiliate unions to organize meaningful strike support for unions on strike.
- Bring affiliates together to coordinate our organizing strategies.
- Work with affiliates to ensure all locals are affiliated and active in their labour councils.
- Engage the membership at the grassroots level in identifying and articulating an independent political vision, one premised on the potential and ability of workers to make social change at all levels of our society.
- Transform the public debate on the basis of a new vision and a progressive alternative. We need to shift from continuously fighting defensive battles and be prepared to fight to win new victories that our children and future generations deserve.
- Build worker‑to‑worker solidarity across borders. Encourage a new era of concrete solidarity with fellow workers around the world. Global solidarity would not be restricted to resolutions and infrequent conferences.
- Engage in the electoral process on the basis of a clear labour agenda. We can best support our allies in Parliament, by mobilizing our members to defend our rights every day of the year.
- Develop an organizing strategy that engages the members, activists and the community.
- Build a broad‑based movement that can effectively challenge the austerity agenda. Launch a pan‑Canadian campaign to improve public services including healthcare, education, public transit, Canada Post and others.
- Empower the rank and file of our movement and give real voice to young workers, marginalized workers, activists and workers from equity seeking groups.

Husseini has more than two decades of activism in the student, labour, social justice, community and international solidarity movements. He has served as a union local president, human rights vice‑president, health and safety representative, negotiating team member, and labour council delegate.

In the mid 1990s, he was an organizer for the Ottawa‑Carleton CUPE District Council, playing a lead role in mobilizing for the Ontario Days of Action. He also coordinated Ottawa's walk for peace, the environment and social justice.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon to a large working class family of ten siblings, Hassan Husseini immigrated to Canada in the mid‑1980s. He holds a Masters degree in legal studies from Carleton University.

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