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Toronto – March 28, 2013 – UFCW Canada activists and officers joined more than 180 delegates and participants in a strategic forum this week about building a broad-based national coalition based on the values that are shared by the majority of Canadians as well as the labour movement – such as fairness, equal opportunity, and a safe and healthy place to work and live.
Labour Rights and Their Impact on Democracy, Economic Equality and Social Justice was presented by the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights, and sponsored by UFCW Canada, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF).
Presenters at the Toronto conference included Canadian and international human rights advocates, labour leaders, progressive labour relations academics, and labour lawyers.
"We must do what generations of activist have done before us as workers and as community members," said National President Hanley, as he joined NUPGE National President James Clancy, and CTF President Paul Tailleferin welcoming the participants. "We must fight relentlessly to get the message out that democracy, equality, and workers rights are all joined together," added Brother Hanley.
Brother Clancy emphasized the important fact that "the truth is on our side” and called on delegates and all workers “to reclaim the narrative, because unions do matter – day in and day out in the wellbeing of all Canadians."
To back up that fight, a number of conference presenters, including keynote speaker Richard Wilkinson, provided hard evidence and new research that confirms the critical role that labour rights and unions have in advancing democracy, creating greater economic equality, and promoting the social well-being of all Canadians. Wilkinson is co-author of the bestseller "Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone". Its headline-generating research shows that societies with more equal distribution of incomes have better health, fewer social problems, and are more productive than ones in which the gap between the rich and poor is greater.
"It is fact. It is backed up statistics and it is a story that has to be told by all of us, through a message that is loud and clear and consistent," said National President Hanley in the closing session of the three-day conference. "As we have heard, you find healthier, safer, more prosperous communities where the distribution of income is more equitable, which comes with higher union density and full labour rights. So to build a broad-based popular movement, we must re-engage the public and union members about the vital role that unions have played — and must continue to play — to protect democracy and fairness."
To find out more about how labour rights and unions reduce income inequality, strengthen the economy, and enhance democracy, download the Conference foundation paper Unions Matter, produced for the conference by the CFLR.