Every year, sibling publication Automotive News selects a list of "outstanding performers" in the world's automotive industry. This year, Canadian and head of Unifor, Lana Payne was honoured for her work in labour.
Workers are having a moment.
That's been a common refrain from Unifor President Lana Payne since her election to the top post at Canada's largest private-sector union a little over a year ago. The current environment defined by high inflation and lofty corporate profits, Payne has said repeatedly, represents a rare opportunity for workers to make major strides in compensation, benefits and work conditions.
And Payne, 58, has been putting in countless hours to see workers take advantage.
Since the start of 2023, she has stood at the center of a public campaign to pressure grocery chain Metro to end a monthlong strike by workers in Toronto, laid the groundwork for a high-profile union drive at an Amazon warehouse in Vancouver and put in marathon bargaining sessions for auto workers in contract talks with the Detroit Three.
Payne was elected to head Unifor in August 2022, following a three-way contest to replace longtime President Jerry Dias, who retired that spring while facing an internal ethics review. She's just the second person to lead the union, which was founded in 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.
Unifor, which has about 315,000 members in nearly every sector of the economy, represents more than 35,000 auto workers at Detroit 3 plants in Ontario and more than 100 parts suppliers across the country.
Payne has also pushed for greater transparency following Dias' departure, as well as committed to decentralizing control to better share power with union locals. At the same time, she has maintained the union's willingness to engage politically, weighing in publicly on issues such as the effect of central bank interest rate hikes on working people.