Le nombre des syndiqués canadiens appartenant à des unions « internationales » est très important. C'est un phénomène unique au monde. Jusqu'à quel point les politiques syndicales canadiennes dépendent-elles de décisions prises aux Etats-Unis? Quels sont les avantages et les inconvénients de cette situation? L'auteur répond à ces questions ainsi qu'aux critiques portées contre le syndicalisme international au Canada.
Out of the 1,351,000 Canadian union members, 954,000 (70%) belong to "international" unions which head office and the great majority of their membership are in the United States. This situation is unique in the world. It was, and is still, the source of difficulties and critics from employers, governments, public and from the trade union movement itself.
Before the Merger in Canada, this question of Canadian autonomy has been seriously examined. Indeed, the leaders of the TLCC and of the CCL were in favor of a complete and real autonomy for the new labour body and its constitution mentions it clearly. It stipulates that only national or international unions which conform to the rules and regulations of the CLC may become affiliated and that every jurisditional conflict be settled by the CLC only. So any union of, or chartered by, the AF of L in Canada shall be suppressed and all the organizers of the AFL-CIO in Canada shall be transferred to the CLC.
There are also a few other signs of this spirit reigning in the new Canadian central body: the unanimous choice of its name, of its officers, the amount of a 7 cents per capita instead of the 4 cents in United States. The CLC is not a simple copy of the AFL-CIO and is in no way submitted to American control eventhough the mutual relations are very friendly. This is unavoidable as 1 ) Canada and U.S.A. are so closed and so closely related: many of our Canadian industries are branches of American corporations and many belong to American owners; 2) The Canadian sections of the International unions are submitted to the International constitutions just like the American ones; 3) They play an effective part in their mother-organizations and are almost completely autonomous. (Canadian members ask for this autonomy and American members support them); 4) There is only one restriction: if Canadian unions may refuse to go on strike, as a general rule, they cannot go on strike without the previous consent of the International union.
But what are the objections formulated by the national critics against the International trade unionism? 1) International unions may force Canadian workers to adopt a policy of wage or other which does not respond to their economic conditions. 2) They try to raise Canadian wages to a level which may provoke the bankruptcy of Canadian industry. 3) With their financial strength, they enable the Canadian workers to force their employers to give wage rates which are so high that they constitute an obstacle to the growth of Canadian industry. 4) They can order to Canadian workers to go on strike so that Canadian plants be closed and that their markets pass to American business concerns. 5) They can, by the intermediary of the Canadian sections influence Canadian goverments (federal or provincial ) in impeding Canadian industry either by raising it; income-tax or by lowering its customs duties which are its protection against American competition. 6) They can deprive Canadian workers from their benefits in ordering them to strike for strictly American purposes. 7) They get from Canadian workers enormous amounts of money which are sent to the United States... this weakens both the workers and the economy of Canada. 8) Their leaders, with their conservative mind, prevent the Canadian members from formulating requests which are well justified by the Canadian economic conditions. 9) Some American agitators inspire to peaceful Canadian workers exagerated ideas and unjustified request which would have never come to their minds without their belonging to American Unions. 10) They oblige the Canadian sections to adopt the foreign policy of the AFL-CIO, and even of the American government.
These objections are easily rejected. For example, while the AFL-CIO is against the recognition of the Red China, the CLC favors it. During some strikes, the amount received by Canadian members are far greater than the sums paid by them to International unions. Besides, most of the amounts levied for the International office are held here in Canada. They are used to buy governmental bonds or are kept in a special account either to pay the expenses of the national Canadian office or of the regional offices, and to pay the salaries of the permanent officers in Canada and the per capita tax paid to CLC. And for the strike question, according to researches made by the National Industrial Conference Board, there is not one International union which constitution contains a clause allowing the central office to order a strike.
To summarize, the CLC is an autonomous labour body in principle and in fact. Its affiliated unions are also autonomous in fact although they are submitted to a few financial restrictions from the central offices, because they receive from them most of the funds which are necessary for long industrial struggles. All the officers of the Congress are Canadian citizens and most of the directors of the Canadian sections of the affiliated international unions are also Canadian citizens. Every meeting, either of the Congress itself, or of its provincial federations, of its local councils, of their committees, or their departments, is dominated by a deep Canadian spirit and against any American infiltration. The CLC has many very strong national unions: Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees and other Transport Workers, two unions of public employees, the One Big Union, etc. If the CCCL joins the CLC, as it is the desire of all, 27% of the membership of the Congress will be exclusively Canadian.
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FORSEY, DR EUGÈNE, directeur des recherches au Congrès du travail du Canada.