Looking back: Canadian Labour Congress Convention 2023

May 2, 2023

MoveUP delegates at CLC Convention 2023 pose for a group photo in front of the Montreal Convention Centre

The Canadian Labour Congress’ 30th Constitutional Convention took place in Montreal from May 8 to May 12.

Our union was represented at the Convention by a group of diverse delegates that come from your workplaces.

Visit the CLC Convention 2023 webpage for official information, including speaker bios, agendas, and publications.

Why Equity and Diversity Matters to MoveUP

Recognizing that equity and diversity in our representation was critical, MoveUP made the decision to ensure that our delegation included spots for members who were part of equity-deserving groups. Our delegates who attended the CLC Convention spoke about why that was so important. See the video below.

Delegates share their thoughts

Hear directly from our delegates at Convention representing MoveUP by clicking on the links below.

Vanessa Sharma
Rhys Coulter
Anderson Charles
Sabrina Chang
Dimitri Ossinsky
Mario Lopez
Satwinder Grewal
Ahmad Naqvi
Leilah Thiel
AJ Heer

Photo Galleries

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

CLC Documents

Action Plans Report
Canadian Council Report
Report of Committees
Resolutions Guide
Secretary-Treasurer Report

Emergency Resolution: Volunteer Hours
Emergency Resolution: Anti-Hate

MoveUP-submitted resolutions

The list of resolutions submitted by MoveUP to the CLC Convention can be found below. All the resolutions can be found in the Resolutions Guide by searching up the appropriate number.

  • ESP-099: Push for a National Dental Plan
  • ESP-100: Access to high-quality, affordable childcare
  • ESP-101: Housing First policy
  • ESP-102: National bus service for rural and Indigenous communities
  • GEN-093: Clean water for all
  • GEN-095: Fair Pay Agreement model
  • GEN-096: Decriminalization of sex work
  • GEN-097: Support for political prisoners in Iran
  • GEN-098: Support displaced Ukrainians in Canada

COPE SEPB endorses Team Unite CLC leadership; Team acclaimed

MoveUP’s national union, COPE SEPB, has officially endorsed the leadership of Team Unite CLC 2023 for leadership of the Canadian Labour Congress. The leadership team, all incumbents, consists of Bea Bruske (President), Lily Chang (Secretary-Treasurer), and Larry Rousseau and Siobhán Vipond (Executive Vice-Presidents).

On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that all four had been acclaimed to their respective positions.

Team Unite CLC 2023 leadership team

MoveUP’s Vanessa Sharma successfully elected as VP representing Workers of Colour to the CLC Canadian Council

MoveUP is proud to support our member, Vanessa Sharma, who is running for vice-president representing Workers of Colour to the CLC Canadian Council caucus.

Vanessa was successfully elected as one of two vice-presidents at the Workers of Colour caucus meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

MoveUP supports Vanessa Sharma for vice-president representing workers of colour to the CLC Canadian Council

Friday, May 12

The fifth and final day of the 2023 CLC Convention featured a panel discussion and interactive educational opportunities for delegates before sending everyone back to their respective provinces and workplaces to put words into actions over the next three years.

Thursday, May 11

Organizing was the theme of the penultimate day of the 2023 CLC Convention. The morning started off with a panel discussion on organizing. The panel consisted of: Sarah Broad, a young labour activist who helped organize the first successful corporate Starbucks union in North America; Stephanie Williams, a personal care worker at a care facility; and James Russwurm, representing the first video game union in North America.

Moderated by Marc-Édouard Joubert, the panel talked about their personal experience organizing on the front lines, hearing workers’ stories and being able to talk to people about how a union can help them, and realizing many people don’t know what a union is about and being able to educate them on it.

The panelists had differing experiences on where they found allies. For example, Sarah mentioned the best allies they found were with other unions and union members, especially since the public doesn’t necessarily have the best opinion of service workers. On the flip side, James mentioned the public were very supportive of their cause.

They also shared their experiences about how they spread information, particularly dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Organizing Action Plan was passed by delegates at convention.

Two sessions of keynote speakers were part of the morning as well. Brian Young, president and executive director of Action Network, the toolset, powering many of the largest campaigns and mobilizations in the last decade, spoke about the history of how the tool was built – with union and activist input – and how it focused on the needs of the people using the tools.

He spoke about some of the different campaigns that have successfully used the tool, such as the organizing of minor league baseball players, Amazon Labor Union, Trader Joe’s United, and others.

The next keynote address came from Chris Smalls, founder and president of the Amazon Labor Union, and founder of The Congress of Essential Workers (TCOEW), a nationwide collective of essential workers and allies fighting for better working conditions, better wages, and a better world. Chris was a former Amazon warehouse supervisor fired after organizing a protest against the company’s unsafe pandemic conditions.

Chris Smalls on stage at CLC Convention 2023

Smalls shared a story about the early days of the pandemic when, at the time as a supervisor, he was informed by management not to tell the 8,000 entry-level workers in his warehouse not to let them know that COVID-19 had been detected in the warehouse.

He called the walkout at Amazon in March 2020, where he was fired two hours after, a life-changing experience. It was that which sparked him to become founder of the TCOEW. He mentioned how, in their first year, he was not trying to form a union but rather just to spread the word about workers’ rights.

He talked about the challenges he faced in speaking to people in red states, making sure people knew it was not an issue of left versus right, but an issue of workers.

When asked how a grassroots effort, with no real resources and support, managed to go up against a trillion dollar company, Smalls said, “no amount of money in the world can amount to people and the power of people when we come together.”

He revealed that Amazon spent over $14 million last year to fight them, and he expects that to double in the years to follow. He encouraged people to think about the effect when they purchase for Amazon, and encouraged delegates who do shop there to consider visiting www.amazonlaborunion.org to make a small $5 donation.

He closed with a lasting message of saying, “when we fight back, we win!”

As has been part of tradition at the CLC Convention, the Thursday afternoon featured a convention action. Delegates took the streets of Montreal for a short march to demonstrate solidarity and union power.

Check out video from the march by clicking here.

Delegates take to the streets to March at CLC Convention 2023

The General resolutions passed are included below. The full text of each resolution can be found in the Report of Committees. Resolutions with an asterisk indicate a resolution that was submitted by MoveUP or, in the case of a composite resolution, were combined from several resolutions including one from MoveUP.

  • Composite Resolution: Residential Schools
  • Composite Resolutions: Systemic Racism

The following emergency resolutions were passed:

  • Emergency Resolution: Anti-Hate

The last order of the day was the swearing-in of the Canadian Council.

Wednesday, May 10

The third day of the 2023 CLC Convention started off with a panel discussion on front-line workers, particularly those working in the care industry.

The panel – consisting of Stephanie Smith (President of NUPGE and BCGEU), Sharleen Stewart (International Vice-President of SEIU Local 1), and Carlos Sosa (Support worker and member of UFCW Canada, and moderated by Sandy Hudson (co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada) – talked about the impact of unionization on care work, being a voice for essential workers, the negative effects of privatization, and the importance of having a publicly-funded and publicly-delivered care system.

They also talked about the human resources crisis being faced in the care industry, but also the mental health crisis being faced as well.

The Care Economy Action plan was passed by delegates at Convention.

The General resolutions passed are included below. The full text of each resolution can be found in the Report of Committees. Resolutions with an asterisk indicate a resolution that was submitted by MoveUP or, in the case of a composite resolution, were combined from several resolutions including one from MoveUP.

  • Composite Resolution: Organizing Workers
  • Composite Resolution: Harassment and Violence in the Workplace
  • Composite Resolution: 2SLGBTQI+

The afternoon kicked off with Shawn Dearn, an award-winning journalist and queer activist, in conversation with Margaret Cho, a comedian, actress and 2SLGBTQIA+ activist, whose body of work includes many stand-up comedy specials as well as starring on well-known films such as Face/Off and Fire Island.

Margaret talked about remembering her first experience with Pride demonstrations and how she continues to by the Pride movement today, especially in light of the anti-gay and anti-trans legislation happening in the United States. She spoke to allies who don’t identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ telling them their support is important because it is a fight for what’s right.

She also talked about growing up enduring racism and the excitement she gets from seeing more Asian representation now in movies and television. Other topics discussed included the importance of belonging through use of pronouns, the fight against AIDS, gun control and having to feel nervous about going out anywhere in the United States, protecting women’s rights and the right to one’s own body, and what keeps her going in the face of all the attacks and injustices happening.

The Building Up Action Plan was passed by delegates at convention.

The Economic and Social Policy Resolutions passed are included below. The full text of each resolution can be found in the Report of Committees. Resolutions with an asterisk indicate a resolution that was submitted by MoveUP or, in the case of a composite resolution, were combined from several resolutions including one from MoveUP.

  • Composite Resolution: Child Care*
  • Composite Resolution: Mental Health

Gwen Mills, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE, delivered the keynote address to close out the third day of Convention. UNITE HERE represents 250,000 hospitality workers in hotels, casinos, food service, airports, and more across Canada and the U.S.

She talked about the challenges we are facing with AI and automation and asked delegates if the labour movement will be the one to guide these tools, or if we will be at their mercy? She told delegates the story of how her union used the power of technology to build the internal mechanism of their union.

She talked about how they build a system that could connect multiple tools, but also ran a campaign called “Rewired” that aimed to close the digital divide in their union. Their philosophy was that technology should not only be a tool for union staff, but for all job stewards. Today, now all 45 locals in their union are using the various tools and they are working towards complete adoption.

She also talked about how one of their first major victories was helping to defeat Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election through their “Take Back 2020” campaign. The data they had allowed them to choose where they could have the biggest impact. They were able to recruit 3,000 members that had been laid off – members who had not gotten healthcare and were fighting for unemployment insurance to be extended – to spend three to five months knocking on doors to get people to turn out to vote.

She concluded saying workers to day face enormous challenge and the unchecked use of technology could undermine the entire labour movement by automating most of our jobs. But taking charge of membership and organizing data and building tools for rank-and-file activists to use is one piece of fight back that we have to do. Text messages and cell phone apps are never going to replace the necessity of face-to-face conversation that is the bedrock of our solidarity and power.

Tuesday, May 9

The second day of the 2023 CLC Convention began with the Constitution & Structure Committee delivering its report.

Romeo Saganash, a Cree leader, Indigenous Rights advocate, and former NDP MP spoke to delegates about the CLC’s plan for Indigenous justice and the role the labour movement must play in mobilizing around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

He spoke to the continuing trauma stemming from residential schools and the urgent and growing problem relating to murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, two-spirit and transgender people (MMIWG2S+) but said the labour movement was always at the forefront of these issues and how it must step up again.

He revealed that Canada spends $600 million to $1 billion a year fighting Indigenous rights in courts, well above the public figure of $100-150 million a year, while endorsing the CLC’s Indigenous Action Plan as a step in the right direction.

The Indigenous Action Plan was passed by delegates at Convention.

The Constitution & Structure Resolutions passed are included below. The full text of each resolution can be found in the Report of Committees.

  • Resolution CS-012
  • Resolution CS-011
  • Resolution CS-005

The General resolutions passed are included below. The full text of each resolution can be found in the Report of Committees. Resolutions with an asterisk indicate a resolution that was submitted by MoveUP or, in the case of a composite resolution, were combined from several resolutions including one from MoveUP.

  • Composite Resolution: Right to Strike

A panel discussion discussing the challenges of climate change opened the afternoon of the second day of Convention. The panel consisted of Matt Wayland (Canadian Director of Government Relations, IBEW), Meg Gingrich (Assistant to the National Director, United Steelworkers Canadian National Office), and Patrick Rondeau (Union Advisor – Environment and Just Transition, FTQ), and was moderated by Mary Shortall, former president of the Newfoundland & Labrador Federation of Labour.

The key message that came out was the importance of ensuring workers and unions are involved int he decision making process. They talked about how even decisions that are, on the surface, positive, may be derailed if unions come out against it due to not having been consulted and not having a full understanding on the impact on jobs and their members. Support might also be lost from workers on climate action as a result.

They talked about the importance of training and ensuring union members are there from day one, and preventing industries from turning to cheap labour, as well as talking about shifting the narrative around just transition from the government’s definition which involve job losses to one where union jobs are protected.

The Climate Crisis Action Plan was passed by delegates at Convention.

The Economic and Social Policy Resolutions passed are included below. The full text of each resolution can be found in the Report of Committees. Resolutions with an asterisk indicate a resolution that was submitted by MoveUP or, in the case of a composite resolution, were combined from several resolutions including one from MoveUP.

  • Composite Resolution 6: Tackling the Housing Affordability Crisis*
  • Composite Resolution 7: Women’s Economic Justice
  • Composite Resolution 8: Public Services and Anti-Privatization
  • Composite Resolution 9: Pensions and Investments

The official agenda of day two ended with an address from Colleen Thorpe, Executive Director of Equiterre. Equiterre is an environmental organization that has worked since 1993 to be a reliable, credible and unifying force on environmental issues.

Colleen talked about the mission of Equiterre which is to encourage Canadians to rethink the system in which we live. She said that looking away is how one endures a challenge, not stand up to it and insist on change. And it is not the union way.

She also broke down some myths, notably: technology will save us; we are all equally responsible; and there is nothing we can do.

She ended on a positive note saying we can change the way we produce and consume goods, we can create quality, dependable jobs, and we can affect policy to make it all possible.

Monday, May 8

Award-winning singer Jully Black kicked off the opening ceremonies of convention, singing a re-imagined version of “Solidarity Forever” and noting to delegates that she believes the goal is to create a Canada that the whole world wants to emulate.

Canada’s NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, talked about how strong unions are needed more than ever. He talked about how the Liberals and Conservatives have created a system that has left workers behind, noting the growing cost of living people are facing with at the same time CEOs and big companies like grocery chains are raking in massive profits. He talked about some of the gains the NDP has managed to achieve—dental care, investments tied to good union jobs, anti-scab legislation, 10 paid sick days for federal workers—and urged delegates to imagine what more we could achieve with an NDP government.

Jagmeet Singh on the stage at the 2023 CLC Convention

In CLC President Bea Bruske’s address to delegates, she called Canada’s labour movement the most important progressive movement in the country. She reiterated her top job as being building a strong labour movement, and noted the goal of this convention for delegates was to learn, discover new tools and strategies, and take them back home to meet the challenges ahead.

Among her key points was on the political front, warning all workers to watch what politicians do and not what they say. She said workers are ready to take on conservative premiers across the country, and also said workers would not be fooled by Pierre Poilievre’s attempts to brand himself as worker-friendly while actively trying to attack the ability of unions to operate by going after the Rand formula.

She committed that the CLC will push for meaningful action for all workers, with the goal to turn rank-and-file members into committed activists and working together, we can improve working conditions for all workers and elect worker-friendly governments.

Valerie Plante, Mayor of Montreal, addressed delegates and spoke passionately about the issues of affordability and supporting public transit in the city of Montreal. On affordability, she called affordable housing a direct way of supporting workers and economic development. On public transit, she said it was critical continue to invest in public transit as an essential service, as a way to reduce greenhouse gases and support social development, and noted that as of July, public transit will be free for those 65-and-above.

A panel discussion featuring three economists—Jim Stanford (Centre for Future Work), Angella MacEwen (CUPE National), and Armine Yalnizyan (Fellow on the Future of Workers), along with moderator Jen Hassum (PressProgress)—talked about inflation and the powerful myths that structures such as the Bank of Canada reinforce regarding inflation, and the importance of unions and their role in breaking down those myths.

They addressed how, despite the myths spread by the likes of the Bank of Canada or conservative politicians like Pierre Poilievre that try to blame inflation on government spending or workers’ wages, inflation is set by private companies who jack up prices and cause the profit-driven spiral we are in.

The panelists agreed that workers need to be asking more wages and making sure that everybody is treated the same or, in other words, equal pay for equal work. It is also important to address issues such as housing, childcare, and medical care.

The keynote speaker for the first day was Josh Thole, special assistant to minor league baseball players with the Major League Baseball Players Association, and a former major league baseball player who played eight seasons in the big leagues split between the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays.

He spoke about how he recognized the importance of a union came back when he was a player and was part of two collective bargaining agreement negotiations. It was during his playing days that he saw how bad minor league players were treated—being paid on average $12,000 per year and having to live 6-7 people in an apartment—and talked about his work on supporting those minor league players and the work of organizing those minor league players through use of the Action Network tool.

With the first-ever CBA for minor league players now in place, it has doubled the pay for all minor league players while improving housing, transportation, meals, and benefits, and putting in place a grievance procedure.

He called being part of the unionization of minor league baseball players as the great achievement of his baseball career.

Also delivering a few words on the opening day was Magali Picard, the first Indigenous person and first woman to be the president of the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ), and Lily Chang, who delivered the Secretary-Treasurer’s Report.

The Affordability Action Plan was passed by delegates at convention.

The Economic and Social Policy Resolutions passed are included below. The full text of each resolution can be found in the Report of Committees. Resolutions with an asterisk indicate a resolution that was submitted by MoveUP or, in the case of a composite resolution, were combined from several resolutions including one from MoveUP.

  • 1. Composite Resolution: Affordability and the Cost-of-Living Crisis
  • 2. Composite Resolution: Banning Scab Labour
  • 3. Composite Resolution: Protecting Public Health Care*
  • 4. Composite Resolution 4: Tackling the Climate Crisis and Ensuring a Just Transition for Workers
  • 5. Composite Resolution 5: Industrial Policy

Sunday, May 7

Sunday is arrival day for many of the delegates from unions across the country attending the 2023 CLC Convention, including those who will be representing our local.

We want to give a special shout out to all the workers at the Canadian Labour Congress for their hard work in making this event possible, in particular those who are members of COPE 225.

Registration hall at 2023 CLC Convention

For delegates who have already arrived, one of the highlights on the day before the official start of Convention was the International Solidarity Forum.

The forum featured speakers trade unionists from Haiti (Jean Bonald Golinsky Fatal), Mexico (Julia Quiñonez Amparan), and Hong Kong (Christopher Siu-Tat Mung) speaking about why having the support of labour and human rights activists around the world is so critical in their respective countries where they are facing serious challenges.

Regarding Haiti, Jean spoke of the economic and political crisis that exists with presently no legitimate elected leaders, organized gangs running many businesses, and worker wages down significantly as a result.

Regarding Mexico, Julia spoke of the labour reforms that have brought new possibilities especially with unions having to be transparent and workers having freedom to choose the union they want to join. She also spoke of the fight for labour rights of women, noting that women work more hours for less wages, benefits, and access to health care.

Regarding Hong Kong, Christopher—who is presently in exile due to his role in trade unionism, spoke of the trade unionists being held as political prisoners due to China’s National Security laws and how legitimate unions are not able to exist under the current political climate. He did say that there were many activists on-the-ground that are still fighting to restore rights, but how important having international solidarity from the labour movement was critical for that to succeed.

Speakers at the International Forum at the 2023 CLC Convention

Labour council members were also invited to attend the Labour Council Forum held on Sunday. During that forum, Vancouver & District Labour Council President Stephen von Sychowski was acclaimed to the position of Pacific Region Labour Council Vice-President on the CLC Canadian Council. Stephen, who was endorsed by MoveUP’s delegates, is a MoveUP member. Congratulations, Stephen!