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CFL Players' Association joins forces with Canadian Labour Congress

The CFL Players' Association has joined the Canadian labour movement. The CFLPA and Canadian Labour Congress joined forces Thursday.
Solomon Elimimian, President, Canadian Football League Players Association (CFLPA) speaks to media to deliver the union’s State of the Union in Hamilton, on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. The CFL Players' Association is joining the Canadian labour movement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

The CFL Players' Association has joined the Canadian labour movement.

The CFLPA and Canadian Labour Congress joined forces Thursday. The CLC is Canada's largest labour organization, with a membership of more than three million workers and over 500,000 retirees across the country.

The CFLPA represents roughly 650 professional football players.

"This is one of the biggest announcements we've ever had as an organization and I'd argue it's one of the bigger announcements the league has had in a significant period of time," said CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay, a former CFL player. "This makes for a stronger CFLPA, which makes for stronger Canadian football.

"But it also makes for a stronger CFL and provides stability for the league."

The CFL didn't immediately have comment on the CFLPA-CLC affiliation.

"This is a huge win and we’re thrilled to welcome the CFLPA to our team,” said CLC president Bea Bruske. "This shows how the labour movement in Canada is constantly growing and diversifying, and our collective future is brighter with the addition of the CFLPA.

"There are over three million CLC affiliated workers who now stand in support of the CFLPA in their ongoing fight for respect, fair treatment, and equity for CFL players."

Added CFLPA president Solomon Elimimian, also a former CFL player: "Just like on the playing field, there is strength in numbers and this alignment makes us all stronger in our ongoing work toward ensuring fair and respectful working conditions."

The CFLPA has worked steadily towards becoming more involved in labour. Five years ago, it formed an alliance with the United Steelworkers union.

"We've worked very hard on building relationships, both within our industry with other sport _ our coalition on workers' compensation is a great example of that," Ramsay said. "But we've also worked hard on expanding our footprint in labour and you can't get bigger than the CLC in Canada."

The CFLPA joins 49 national and international unions that are affiliated with the CLC.

"There's strength in unity and we believe that solidarity will help grow our sport and industry nationwide," Ramsay said. "Joining forces with the CLC will expose us to their three-plus million members and generate interest and support for the sport in Canada.

"It will make us ultimately stronger at the bargaining table and more successful in any of the campaigns that we're going to do."

There is currently labour harmony between the CFL and players' union the as the present collective agreement runs to Dec. 31, 2029.

"We're that far out from bargaining so we're obviously not doing this solely for that," Ramsay said. "But we're going to immediately become part of a larger network with common interests.

"Whether it's working on strategies, education, preparation, communication, all of these different things, we're going to be able to now rely on these additional resources. They're only going to make our organization that much stronger."

Ramsay sees the CFL benefiting from the CFLPA's alliance, on and off the field.

"Instantly you've got 3.2 million union members who'll be exposed to our members and the game," he said. "I also think on some of the federal issues _ including immigration and work permits _ we've struggled with in the past, we've now got another avenue and voice to help support us in some of the changes we might need."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2024.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press