Mulroney-Harper alliance bad news for Canada's workers
candidate John Kerry blasts
anti-labour practices in the U.S. by Quebecor World. Brian
Mulroney is chairman of the board.
Brian Mulroney is back and it's bad news for Canadian
If any reminder were needed, apart from his close
association with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, it came late
last week with the reporting of a Mulroney-related union-busting
operation in the
Mulroney has emerged as one of Harper's most important advisers in the June
28 Canadian election campaign. He is also the chairman of Quebecor
World of Montreal, one of the largest commercial print media services
Quebecor has just been blasted by U.S. presidential candidate John
Kerry for gross interference with American employees who want to join a union.
(Full text below.)
are reinforced by 41 unfair labor practice charges that have been
filed with the U.S National Labor Relations Board detailing
specific incidents where Quebecor's management has interfered with
and intimidated workers attempting to form a union."
- Senator John Kerry
former Canadian prime minister has been keeping a low profile
during the Canadian election, mainly because memories of his
1984-1993 government are still so raw in voters' minds that his
influence would be a liability if citizens knew how close the two
men have become.
Mulroney was so despised when he left politics that
his Progressive Conservative party was reduced to two seats, the most
humiliating defeat ever suffered by a national ruling political party in
Canada. Since then, the former prime minister has worked
tirelessly to restore his tattered reputation.
Now, 11 years
after the fact, he is making a comeback of sorts through
his association with Harper — and workers are justified in being
Harper is opposed to unions and workers on general ideological
grounds. Mulroney is opposed for practical business reasons - the
fewer unions there are, and the weaker they are, the better it is for the bottom line.
The Quebecor union-busting campaign came to light in Canada with the
release last week of a damning letter from Kerry, a Massachusetts
senator, to Quebecor
World. He addressed it to Quebecor president Pierre Peladeau and
copied it to Mulroney, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO in
Washington, and George Tedeschi, president of the Graphic
Communications International Union. The full text follows:
Mr. Pierre Karl Peladeau
President and Chief Executive Officer
Quebecor World, Inc
612 St. Jacques Street
Canada H3C 4M8
Dear Mr. Peladeau:
I would like to express my continuing support for workers
employed by Quebecor World, Inc. who are attempting to form a
union. Forming and joining a union is a fundamental right under
federal law that all working people deserve the freedom to
exercise in representation elections, unencumbered by management
After speaking with Larry Johnson a maintenance department
employee in your Olive Branch, Mississippi plant I am deeply
concerned by what I have heard. Mr. Johnson described an
atmosphere of fear in the Mississippi plant of fear created by
management to prevent workers from forming a union. He offered
personal accounts of being followed by supervisors, reprimanded
for talking to his co-workers about forming a union and forced
to attend anti-union meetings - all clear violations of the
rights granted under the National Labor Relations Act. Mr.
Johnson assured me that workers in every Quebecor plant where
workers are attempting to form a union are subject to similar
abridgements of their rights.
My concerns are reinforced by 41 unfair labor practice charges
that have been filed with the U.S National Labor Relations Board
detailing specific incidents where Quebecor's management has
interfered with and intimidated workers attempting to form a
union. Although these are serious charges the remedies seldom
counteract the effect of management's actions.
For these reasons I have strongly supported the Employee Free
Choice Act. This federal legislation ensures that when a
majority of employees in a workplace decide to form a union,
they can do so without the debilitating obstacles employers now
use to block workers' right to choose union representation. The
Act will streamline the process of forming a union by respecting
the decision of a majority of workers, by bypassing the
contentious and delay-prone National Labor Relations Board
This legislation proposes a process that is very similar to the
process in Quebec. Major corporations such as Hilton Hotels,
Daimler-Chrysler and Johnson Controls have determined that a
process of card check neutrality is in their best interest. I
support the Graphic Communications International Union in their
quest for securing this process in the United States. In the
meantime, I strongly encourage you to refrain from abridging the
rights of Quebecor workers guaranteed under the National Labor
Sen. John F. Kerry
cc: John Sweeney, President AFL-CIO
Hon. Brian Mulroney, Chairman Quebecor World, Inc.
George Tedeschi, President GCIU
attack dog responds
Neither Peladeau nor Mulroney have replied to the Kerry letter.
Instead, Luc Lavoie, Mulroney's former press secretary and long-time faithful attack dog,
issued the kind of smear-laden statement Canadians have become
accustomed to reading when the former prime minister senses trouble.
Lavoie, now a vice-president of Quebecor World, refused
to comment directly on the allegations made by Kerry. Instead, he
U.S. presidential candidate's motives, accusing him of unfairly
criticizing Quebecor (and by inference Mulroney).
"It's a well-known tactic . . . the idea is, you target a company and
use any means necessary to smear them so they will give up on a number
of legal points," Lavoie said.
"Obviously he's in an election campaign and every vote counts,
including those of the AFL-CIO. We are going to reply to Mr. Kerry in
the most respectful way . . . we are not going to give in."
On the same day the Kerry letter was making headlines, Harper
paused during his election campaign to praise Mulroney for his help in
uniting the former Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative
parties into the new Conservative party prior to the Canadian election.
"Mr. Mulroney was very supportive — as (were former Reform leader
Preston) Manning and Mr. (Mike) Harris and all kinds of people — very,
very supportive of bringing the parties together," Harper said.
"He provided me, when I've asked, with very insightful advice on not
just Quebec, but on Canadian politics."
Meanwhile, Harper has hinted that he may appoint Mulroney senators to
his cabinet if he becomes prime minister after June 28 - and lacks MPs
Mulroney has aligned himself with a wide range of corporations since
leaving politics, reaping millions in the process.
As well as chairman of the board at Quebecor World, he is a director of
Barrick Gold Corp. (Toronto), TrizecHahn Corp. (Toronto), Archer
Daniels Midland Co. (Decatur, Illinois), Cendant Corp. (New York), AOL
Latin America, Inc. (New York) and Cognicase Inc. (Montreal).
He is a senior coulsellor to Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, a global
private equity fund in Dallas, chairman of Forbes Global (New York).
He is also chairman of various international "advisory boards" and
"councils" for many international companies, including Barrick,
Gold, Hicks, Power Corp. (Montreal), Bombardier (Montreal), the China
International Trust and Investment Corp. (Beijing), J. P. Morgan Chase
and Co. (New York), Violy, Byorum and Partners (New York), VS&A
Communications Partners (New York), Independant Newspapers (Dublin)
and General Enterprise Management Services Limited (British Virgin
George Tedeschi issued a statement on behalf of the GCIU praising
Sentaor Kerry as an ally of working families in the United States.
"On behalf of the 75,000 men and women of the GCIU, I applaud him for
his efforts to help Quebecor workers win justice on the job," Tedeschi
Kerry supports efforts by Quebecor World workers to establish
"majority verification," (sometimes called "card check') as the best
way to ensure workers can form a union without the debilitating
obstacles employers set up to block their free choice.
Majority verification is an election in which workers use
authorization cards as ballots. Once a majority of workers have signed
the cards, the company recognizes their union. Kerry has sponsored
pending legislation that would mandate majority verification
The organization drive at Quebecor, launched in December 2003, is an
unprecedented effort by workers and their unions throughout the world
to win basic human rights on the job at Quebecor World's facilities.
Workers in the United States want a fair, democratic process to form a
union — free from management's harassment and intimidation. [NUPGE]
Web posted by NUPGE:
23 June 2004