Public Values

Hudak's assault on labour

Ontario's education workers could lose years of hard-earned job benefits.

Little: If they want workers to work for less, must destroy working condition of anyone doing betterJuly 4, 2012: Somehow, it has become conventional wisdom in Tory and right wing media circles that if PC Leader Tim Hudak loses the Kitchener Waterloo by-election to replace perhaps the last Red Tory in his caucus, Elizabeth Witmer, he will need to commit Hari cari and leave the PC leadership. They are still furious he blew a double-digit lead last fall and lost the election.

As Hudak reads the tealeaves, he has pushed the panic button and staked his survival on becoming the darling of the right wing whack jobs on the fringe of his own party. Hudak is apparently miffed regarding the Ontario Court Decision in favour of the Working Families Coalition and against the Ontario PCs.

Hudak wants to return to a pre-1940s world in Ontario similar to the Right-to-Work states in the USA by removing mandatory union membership from individuals after certification votes by majorities. He wants to make union dues voluntary and forbid their collection by employers. He wants the ways that unions spend their money "more transparent" and disclose how they are spent.

  "Hudak seems blissfully unaware or uncaring about the fact that weakening unions is the fastest way to lower the standard of living for all Ontarians."

Hudak may be unaware that how unions spend their money has been to the Supreme Court of Canada, which said — it is nobody's business but the unions how they spend their money. They are also free to spend their money on politics and political causes so long as corporations are free to do the same.

Hudak seems blissfully unaware or, for someone with an MA in Economics, uncaring about the fact that weakening unions is the fastest way to lower the standard of living for all Ontarians. Labour contracts set the bar high for industry and create a competitive market for labour in Ontario. Reducing union power reduces wages for all workers, not just those in unions.

American wages in RTW states are about 9.5 percent lower than unionized states and in Canada union workers average about $5 more than non-union workers in similar jobs. That means about $9,000 per year for similar work.

Before the radical growth of unions during WW2, labour disputes were often settled by brute force using axe handles and baseball bats on both sides. Does Hudak want a return to those days?

Look around the world at violence in Greece, Spain, our own G20 conference in Toronto, the Quebec students. This is the future Ontario that Tim Hudak will bring to Ontario with controls on Labour.

Sixty years ago, one of our longest serving Prime ministers, Mackenzie King, foresaw this possibility. As a young lawyer for Rockefeller, he had witnessed some brutally violent strikes in turn of the century America. He was determined that one of the hallmarks of Canadian Liberalism would be to strongly mitigate and channel labour strife through bureaucratic exercises until only a few disputes per year were really settled on picket lines. King envisioned "Labour Courts" for all unresolved labour issues similar to today's labour relations boards and compulsory arbitration systems. He believed that a great deal of the violence can be wrung out of the system by setting barriers through fact finding, mediation and arbitration rules. Although King probably did not understand the deep nature of class conflict in society he did what he could to channel it to peaceful directions.

The neo-Conservatives (AKA neoliberals) in our society want to roll all of this back and brutalize working people as part of the race to the bottom using lower wages to entice investment. This is the same mentality of greed that pervades the PC party and most of the Liberal Party. Their diagnosis of the problem is that we have made working people far too prosperous and not left near enough on the table for rich people who are feeling depressed and in a funk and won't invest until we guarantee them a higher rate of return.

When it comes to teachers who are now under assault and education workers who have been under assault for a few years now, achievements dating back literally to the 1940s, such as statutory membership in the federations and basic pension, benefit and wage improvements that took decades to improve, are under assault as never before under Harris, Rae, Peterson or any government since Tory George Drew granted statutory membership in the 1940s.

Teachers and education workers need to understand that they are under assault, not by Dalton McGuinty or Tim Hudak. Those two clowns are simply a Punch and Judy show put on for the entertainment of the media and the electorate to give the appearance of a struggle. The deeper forces that finance the two flunky parties are calling the tune and pulling the strings. They are out to destroy defined benefit pension plans, quality benefits and good wages wherever they see them. If they want their own workers to work for less, they need to destroy the working conditions of anyone doing better.

Take the word of Warren Buffet the second richest man in America. "There's class warfare all right but it's my class, the rich class that's making war and we're winning."

Links and sources
  As Tim Hudak panics, he is losing his political moorings

Posted: July 18, 2012

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