The Telegraph-Journal‘s March 2nd editorial asking whether CUPE has become a political party merits a response.
First and foremost, political decisions affect our members at work and in their daily lives and CUPE has a responsibility to respond. We proudly accept this responsibility. Yes, we continue to ask the Alward government to speak up on EI cuts, as other Premiers have. If unemployed New Brunswickers cannot access EI when out of work, it falls on the province to assist these individuals. The silence in our view from Premier Alward is disconcerting to us.
As for shale gas or the debate a few years back over the sale of NB power, our union enters these debates with policy positions our members have forged in conventions made up of elected delegates from throughout New Brunswick. We regularly discuss and debate issues such as Medicare, public education, child care and taxation issues. On this latter issue, we continue to advocate that the Alward government redress the current situation whereby our province’s ability to deliver basic services is compromised by radical and unsustainable corporate and personal income tax cuts enacted by previous governments. CUPE members have been and will continue to attend provincial pre-budget consultations to discuss these and other important financial matters facing our province and our communities.
While it might fit some narrow interests for Canada to have a compliant labour movement, one that leaves debate on such political issues to political parties only or other interests such as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation or the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, that won’t happen anytime soon. Ours is a democratic labour movement, one not controlled by any government, any employer or any newspaper editor for that matter.
The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the proper role of unions by involving themselves in any and all political matters as determined by their members in any one of the democratic bodies contained within all union structures including local union meetings, conferences or conventions.
Your editorial pages perform an important service in spawning legitimate debate – debate which strengthens our democracy. In this instance, yours is a minority view, one not shared by CUPE nor do we believe many citizens.
Daniel Legere is the president of CUPE NB.