From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Who the %$&# needs unions anyway? We all do that's who

There is much animosity toward unions out there which isn't surprising given the relentless assault waged against them by populist politicians and their mouthpieces in the corporate media. I even see it among my fellow coworkers demonstrating just how effectively we have been propagandized these last 30 or so years.

I'm not going to list all the accomplishments that unions have made to all our benefit that's not what this post is about, besides the list is so long I'd be in serious risk of contracting carpal tunnel syndrome.

We've all heard the lies they're greedy only in it for themselves, lazy malcontents who force jobs to move off shore as well as irrelevant and no longer necessary etc.

Greedy as opposed to whom, their bosses and the very same politicians who demonize them all the while giving themselves huge pay raises,solid gold pensions and golden parachutes. All the workers ask for is enough to buy a modest home pay for their kids education and hopefully have enough left over not to have to eat cat food when they retire, if that's greedy then so be it.

As for lazy a union shop is no different than any other workplace in that some coworkers are hard working some not and yes some who are lazy. I have worked in both union and nonunion workplaces and it has been so in nearly everyone. As for unions protecting the lazy and incompetent it is not only their job but their legal obligation to protect their members. They accept a fee for a service and must provide that service. This doesn't mean that unionized workers can't be fired they can and are all the time it just means that the employer needs to justify their actions and follow agreed upon protocols.

As for making companies uncompetitive again this simply is not true. Unionized workplaces tend to have very little staffing turnover which is of great benefit to the employer who needs to spend less on training and enjoys the increased productivity that an experienced workforce provides. Yeah but what about all those jobs being sent overseas you say. Unionization is not a significant factor in this either, companies offshore jobs for several reasons.

Low wages are a part of the equation for sure but ask yourself this are you willing to work for a couple of bucks a day and if not then your wages are now considered uncompetitive even if you are making minimum wage. Other reasons include a lack of environmental,labour and safety regulations. Merely being able to dump your toxic byproducts into the nearest river makes for one significant cost saving.

Which brings us to they're only in it for themselves and are no longer needed. I group these together because in my mind they are related. Unions constantly advocate for non union workers lobbying for improvements in EI so that everyone is treated equally such as part time seasonal and contract workers. They also led the charge for the fair treatment of workers forced to use temp agencies none of whom are likely to be unionized.

Unions are at the forefront of the battle to protect our pensions and most importantly our precious health care system. Do you honestly think that the corporations and the neoliberals who govern us are going to step up and fight to protect these important institutions, Of course not. In fact they wish to see their destruction,hence the demonizing of Unions one of the few organizations capable of standing in their way.

There is perhaps one other area where we will need the Unions and it is a very important one. As our governments continue to sell out our interests to the corporations, ratchet up the security state and institute their austerity agenda (that is austerity for me and you, not them), there will come a time when we will have no choice but to fight back. This is when we will require their experience and ability to organize.

Unions have been doing this since their inception, rallying their members around causes that benefit us all, whether as mentioned earlier protecting our pensions and healthcare or fighting the trade deals that have put us in a race to the bottom,to fighting against the corporate tax cut agenda,well you get the idea.

In closing I ask you to try something some day, the next time you see some workers on strike or as is increasingly the case today locked out, stop and talk to them. You just might find out that they are no different than you and are facing the very same struggles that you are.


  1. EXCELLENT post. Fact is Canada needs unions to keep predatory capitalism honest. Unions are the last and first line of defense against those interests who aim to ensure all those who who labour & toil are adequately compensated. Without unions Canada's non-unionized employees would be subject to even more abusive employer practices. Fact is, we need unions to keep capitalism honest.

  2. Great comments as always. Yes indeed they are our best chance of fighting off the machinations of capitalistic predators

  3. I was about to do a post on unions as well. I'm enouraged enough I will get off my duff and do it. Nice post, thanks

  4. Looking forward to your take on the subject.

  5. hi Kev...good post. Unions have always been a progressive force in society, and if we didn't have them that society would be a jungle. And as for your last paragraph... if the postal workers go on strike and set up a picket line in Toronto, I won't just talk to them, I'll be joining them on the line...

  6. Hi Simon please do I have done so on many occasions, even walking with workers, they've always appreciated the support.

    Being on strike or locked out is a stressful time and never easy, to know that you are not alone is comforting

  7. great post. i could have not imagine a better one :)

    i wish there were actual committed journalists that would assist in providing the union with the voice it needs.

    union debates are often filtered through the media tainted with the concept of "socialism". but they never refer to union as defenders of workers.

    regrettable also that when union stories are covered by the media, it addresses the issue from a consumer's perspective rather than one of workers.

    i hope your post is circulated widely so that people can see the unfiltered truth.

  8. Thanks Min Yes the corporate media has done their masters bidding well, Hell even union members themselves have bought into their message.But unions are not going to disappear while things may look bleak at the moment their day will come again.

  9. Private sector unions are fine. If they get greedy, demand too much, the company goes bust and they lose their jobs. Tough luck. But Public Sector unions, that's a different kettle of fish. There's always more money, and it's always my money, and I'm tired of seeing people with less education, and less skill then me get paid double or triple what I make, and have some of their pay come out of my tax dollars. Public workers don't create any wealth, they take it from those of us who create it, and it needs to be brought under control

  10. Hey, GC, are you even aware of the fact that CanadaPost employees are not subsidized by your tax dollars? They turn a profit, returned to the government, regardless of their paying a living wage to their employees. (Many other companies could do this, but the extra money goes to corporate bonuses and shareholder dividends, not to the workers.) Try to see beyond the talking-points.

  11. Further: "Public workers don't create any wealth"

    Uh, I'm pretty sure that public workers, just like private-sector workers, pay mortgages and bills and buy things and participate in the economy. A healthy, robust economy requires a strong middle-class, not just a society of menial minimum-wage labourers and $100K+ executives.

  12. Hi GC I reject the notion that people should'nt receive a good wage and pension etc in exchange for their labour, in fact that is my hope for you and your coworkers as well

  13. Hi,Eyeroll Good points all I would add to your Post Office example The LCBO which returns to the province approx a billion dollars in profits and Toronto Hydro tens of millions to the city.

    So it's not surprising that these three profitable enterprises are coveted by the corporate sector and are under constant threat of privatisation.