Magazine article Canadian Dimension

LabourStart Sheds Light on the Real Union Movement

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

LabourStart Sheds Light on the Real Union Movement

Article excerpt

It's easy to be disillusioned with the labour movement, these days. The newspaper headlines say it all: Buzz Hargrove considers running for the Liberals. The CAW holds a show-of-hands vote of its staff to determine who will be allowed to run for office, and all the losing candidates bow out of the race. At the Canadian Labour Congress convention, the leadership team is returned by acclamation. The Magna deal.

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But front-page stories in the national media do nothing to tell us about what is happening in the real union movement across the country. They do not focus on the hundreds of rounds of negotiations happening every day in locals across the country. Those that mock the CAW leadership selection process ignore the real democratic debates that involve millions of workers, and determine whether their bargaining ends in a settlement or strike. You will never find the Globe & Mail praising unions for offering courses challenging workers to come to grips with issues like sexism, racism and homophobia. The National Post will never profile the courageous health-and-safety activists who often risk their jobs to confront bosses over workplace hazards. There was no media coverage of the decision of several, mainly public-sector, unions to donate over $300,000 to support several national women's organizations that had had their funding cut by the Tories. The reality of the labour movement goes unnoticed, while the media focuses on the dramas inspired by the top leadership.

It would probably surprise many labour commentators to know that despite some high-profile no-strike agreements there are still many hard and long strikes in Canada. In 2005 there were more person-days Lost due to strikes than in any year since 1990. Last year, 2007, saw fewer strikes--but the ones that did happen tended to be much tougher. …

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