Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne has entered the race to replace former President Jerry Dias as head of Canada’s largest private sector union.
Payne, who has overseen the union’s financial affairs since being elected secretary-treasurer in 2019, is among Unifor’s highest-ranking officers. She sits on the National Executive Board (NEB) and is one of four members of the union’s current elected leadership team, following Dias’ abrupt retirement March 11.
Prior to being elected secretary-treasurer, Payne served as Unifor’s Atlantic director. She has spent more than 30 years in the labour realm, joining the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union — then affiliated with the Canadian Auto Workers — in 1991.
Payne announced her candidacy via Facebook April 12.
“These past months have been difficult, but they have also given me a new sense of resolve about the future of our union and the kind of leadership we will need to redress the hurt, rebuild trust, and build the hope and confidence we will need to take on the many fights ahead,” she said.
Payne joins Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s national president, and Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents workers at Stellantis’ Windsor, Ont. Assembly Plant. The pair both declared in February they would run to replace Dias.
Dias had been expected to retire at Unifor’s constitutional convention in August, but went on leave Feb. 6 and retired a month later, citing medical problems.
On March 23, alongside Unifor’s three regional directors, Payne detailed NEB allegations that Dias accepted $50,000 from a supplier of COVID-19 test kits that he had helped promote to Unifor employers in December 2021 and January 2022. The NEB plans to hold a hearing into the matter, pending Dias’ health. The former union leader said he was entering rehabilitation for addiction March 23.
The Toronto Police Service said April 5 its Financial Crimes Unit was investigating the former labour leader.
Dias’ departure will also force the union to hold a special convention to fill the vacant president role ahead of the planned vote in August. The union, which represents 315,000 workers in Canada, including approximately 40,000 at auto parts suppliers and vehicle assembly plants, has not yet released a firm timeline or any details on how the vote will be held.
Payne’s entry into the race disrupts the NEB’s earlier endorsement of Doherty.
On April 12, Doherty said he asked the NEB to remove its endorsement as a result of Payne’s declaration.
“I felt making this request was in the best interest of our National Executive Board and membership,” Doherty said in a statement posted to Twitter.