U.S. and Canadian Labor: Convergence at Whose Expense?

By Morand, Martin J. | Monthly Review, June 1991 | Go to article overview

U.S. and Canadian Labor: Convergence at Whose Expense?


Morand, Martin J., Monthly Review


Convergence is coming. Things will get worse for labor in Canada until and unless they get better for unions in the United States. Not mainly the Free Trade Agreement, nor the Charter, nor regressive industrial relations laws in Nova Scotia, Alberta, and British Columbia but mostly the mobility of capital will undermine labor's power. The Americanizing of Canadian industrial relations and the downsizing of Canadian unions will not occur without a hell of a fight but it will occur unless or until the United States labor movement succeeds in revitalizing itself, perhaps sooner than it might otherwise, as a result of its recent envious, but still superficial, interest in the accomplishments of its Canadian sisters and brothers.

Canadians have long known that we in the United States knew little and, until recently, cared less about industrial relations in Canada. Many Canadian industrial relations specialists, though they study in and research about the United States, do not fully understand the enormous and widening gap between us. Camouflaged as the phenomena are by an apparently common language and superficially similar (i.e., Wagner-like) labor laws, the facts are that our unions and our labor relations are distancing themselves, each from the other, even as our businesses and trade relations converge toward that total integration which will make it impossible to separate them. My thesis is that such dichotomy between the industrial relations superstructure and the economic foundations of our societies cannot long endure.

It is relatively easy to illustrate these disparities in the area of unionism and labor-management relations. There is excellent research, particularly from a Canadian perspective, on union density and industrial relations legislation and practice. Therefore, I will devote myself mostly the non-collectively bargained rights and conditions of individual workers, with or without unions. I will attempt to show how these individual rights illuminate the depth of our divergence, impact upon the collective rights of workers in unions, and would make any convergence of our industrial relations situations redound to the detriment of Canadian workers.

But, first, some reflections on the industrial relations laws and behaviors in the United States. While there is some debate about the cause/effect relationship between legislation and union power, laws and their administration do matter. Richard Trinclisti, Assistant Director of Organizing for the United Mine Workers of America, immediately after the Pittston settlement, asserted, "Strikes are no longer an effective weapon in labor's arsenal. We must find an alternative because the legal deck is stacked against unions."

He was referring primarily to the problem of replacement workers. At Pittston there was a possibility of a settlement because, and only because, the company had a non-union mine to which it could transfer the scabs. In another coal strike, the local management (of a Canadian corporation) frustrated a potential buyout by a union firm by promising the strikebreakers permanent jobs. Thus, the managers created a potentially costly breach of contract suit by the strikebreakers and used the threat of this suit to frustrate the buyout and protect their own jobs--a new form of golden parachute.

By contrast, the 1989 telephone strikes were able to be settled because there were no strikebreakers--supervisors operated the phones. The Eastern Airlines and Greyhound Bus strikes will or will not be settled depending on a resolution of the replacement issue. It should be obvious that it is difficult to settle a strike if the strikers have no jobs to which to return. The permanent replacement phenomenon led James Molatsi, President of the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa, to wonder, "In South Africa, the laws hold that if one goes on strike, he is fired. In the United States, if you strike, they hire permanent replacements. …

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

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.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

U.S. and Canadian Labor: Convergence at Whose Expense?
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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access 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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.