Trade Unions and the Left

By Bickerton, Geoff | Canadian Dimension, March-April 2004 | Go to article overview

Trade Unions and the Left


Bickerton, Geoff, Canadian Dimension


Recently I have been looking at some public opinion polls that looked at issues such as voting intentions, trade, public ownership, health care and education. On almost every issue trade union members are significantly more progressive than the other segments of the population. I suppose there are many reasons for this. Collective power probably gives union members the confidence to think more about the potential for changing things. Union education programs undoubtedly play a role. The democratic process of unions also requires members to discuss and debate issues.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

So it should not come as a surprise that gaining employment in a unionized workplace would promote some leftward political movement among a proportion of the members. Of course one can overstate the political development of union members. Unionists may be twice as likely to vote for the NDP than the new Conservative Party, but a majority of union members still choose the Liberals as their first voting choice.

What is surprising is how we on the socialist Left have been so spectacularly unsuccessful at convincing more than a small percentage of trade union members that the world would be much better off under a socialist system than under capitalism.

I suppose there are also lots of reasons for this. One might ask if anyone is even trying. Certainly the unions do not see this as their mandate. Most trade union education programs are good on critiquing capitalism and globalization but stop well short of opening the discussion of a socialist alternative. Although the union movement has embraced much more progressive political, economic and social policies there is little or no discussion of what it would take to for workers to truly wrestle power from capitalists. And while most of the current union leadership may be significantly to the left of the membership, the vast majority of their time and efforts are taken up in direct workplace concerns such as health and safety, bargaining, organizing, grievances etc. In terms of left labour organization the level of activity of the "Action" caucus has been largely restricted to activities at union conventions.

The job of bringing socialism to union members falls to socialists and our track record is sadly lacking. The logical source of socialist inspiration should come from Left parties. …

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

Trade Unions and the Left
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.