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'We're there for you' US union head tells Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian trade unions were strong supporters of American unions under recent government attack, American Federation of Labour head Richard L. Trumka told delegates to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) convention in Vancouver this week. He promised that American unionists would return the favor when Canadian unions need support.

"Earlier this year when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker turned budget hysteria into a weapon against Wisconsin teachers, nurses, and first responders, you were at our side, you said 'What can we do?'" Trumka told the CLC's assembled delegates as Canada's largest democratic institution (with over three million members) conducted its tri-annual constitutional convention.

"You said 'We're there for you, brother.' You said 'We're with you, sister, whatever you need,'" Trumka enthused.

Trumka promised that his members (of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) would return the support as Canadian workers face attacks on their rights similar to the Tea Party inspired efforts of Wisconsin's Scott Walker.

"And here's our word: We will be there for you whenever you call every single time you need us, that's a promise."

Trumka said that both US and Canadian unionists face economies that are increasingly beset with economic inequality, noting that in Canada the top one percent of the nation's population now gets a larger slice of the nation's wealth than it has in over a century. In the US, he said, the average CEO takes home a pay cheque more than three hundred times larger than that of a worker receiving the median wage.

The US labour leader noted that union membership figures are falling in his country, but also noted new organizing drives among younger workers, domestic workers and those currently outside the labour movement that he believes will lead to a renewal of organized labour in the US.

"We've seen our politics corrupted by billionaires who have used fear and economic insecurity in a bid to dismantle our social safety nets and divide working people," Trumka said.

He called for workers' unity across borders.

"We must be one—we are one—and that underlies the beauty and the strength of the incredible energy and activism generated in response to this year's attacks on collective bargaining rights along your southern border," he told the CLC delegates.

Tom Sandborn reports on labour and health policy issues for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.

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