WORKERS UNPROTECTED: Our Gov'ts Refuse to See Labour Rights as Human Rights

By Dobbin, Murray | CCPA Monitor, October 2006 | Go to article overview

WORKERS UNPROTECTED: Our Gov'ts Refuse to See Labour Rights as Human Rights


Dobbin, Murray, CCPA Monitor


Almost everyone in Canada now understands, and more or less accepts, the notion of human rights. It wasn't always so. The idea has a relatively short history in Canada, given that the UN Charter dates from just after the second World War. Human rights first gained a foothold in our political culture in the early 1970s when provinces passed bills of rights and set up human rights commissions-agencies that accept complaints about rights violations and do their best to educate people about what their rights are.

Then, in 1981, with the establishment by Pierre Trudeau of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, human rights were constitutionalized. Some groupsmost notably the disabled and gays and lesbians-have since made significant progress to end discrimination. But, at the same time, a very old right has been eroded. This is the principal theme of a recent CCPA book, Labour Left Out: Canada's Failure to Protect and Promote Collective Bargaining as a Human Right, by Roy Adams, professor emeritus of the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. The book traces the recent history of Canada's failure to protect and promote this fundamental human right. It is a potent and timely reminder of the ground labour has lost in two decades of neoliberalism in Canada.

Ten years ago, I did a documentary on democracy and the politics of human rights for CBC's Ideas. One of the people I interviewed still sticks in my mind for his astute comment and warning about "rights politics." Allan Blakeney, a former NDP premier of Saskatchewan, pointed out that charters of rights assume "that the only people who interfere with rights are governments, and therefore the charter will restrict governments and nobody else; and that government action always curtails freedom and-never expands freedom. That overstates it a bit but not much."

Blakeney clearly disagreed with this notion and went on to give examples of what he meant by government actions that expand freedom: minimum wage laws, hours of work, and other labour standards that protect workers who have very little bargaining power. He might have added the laws protecting the right to collective bargaining, which are perhaps the most powerful expansion of freedom of any laws, especially if you look at the millions of people they potentially affect.

As governments became more hostile to labour in the 1990s, labour fought back, in part, through the courts. In 1998, a key Supreme Court of Canada decision confirmed, according to Adams, that "employers have a constitutional obligation to recognize and deal with their employees' representatives." But, as it turns out, that and a toonie will get you a cup of coffee. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

WORKERS UNPROTECTED: Our Gov'ts Refuse to See Labour Rights as Human Rights
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.