In the first contested election in a decade, the members of Unifor elected Lana Payne their new president last week. Representing over 300,000 workers, Unifor is the largest private-sector union in the country.
Ms. Payne’s election is, in a sense, long overdue—she is the union’s first woman president. I may be accused of sexism but I am inclined to think of women leaders as more concerned with service and less with ego. Less macho. (Margaret Thatcher and her ilk notwithstanding.) With less need to be the big dog they tend to be more inclusive, more accountable and more transparent.
And indeed, as part of her campaign Payne championed the need for greater accountability and transparency in union affairs. Unifor is currently in need of both. The last president, Jerry Dias, retired in March after being accused of taking money for recommending a company supplying COVID test kits to Unifor employers. A large part of the new president’s job will be restoring confidence in the union in the eyes of both the membership and the public.
Although Ms. Payne was part of the last executive, she has clean hands. As national secretary-treasurer she initiated an independent external investigation into the former president’s conduct.
She takes over the reins at an opportune time for unions. With record low unemployment combined with inflation eroding pay cheques, unionization is attracting increasing interest.
I wish President Payne congratulations and good luck.