Tag Archive: workers

Guest Blog also posted in the Huffington Post.


Part 2: Hudak and Harper Attempt to Silence their Critics

Sid Ryan, President, Ontario Federation Labour

This is part two of a three-part reply to Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak’s series of HuffPost blogs about his party’s “Path to Prosperity” white paper.

From Queen’s Park to Parliament Hill, if there is one lesson that Conservatives have learned from Indiana, Alabama, Louisiana and other states where “right-to-work” laws have decimated worker representation and driven down wages, it is that attacking unions is also the best way to silence your critics. It has become standard training for every new conservative strategist: you cannot implement a cheap labour economy without neutralizing opposition.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has led the way byattacking the finances of any group or individual that dared to criticize his policies: de-funding church-based charities and immigrant advocacy organizations, smearing environmental groups and firing outspoken public servants. And now, Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak is taking a page from the Harper playbook by attacking unions.

Because unions have an independent source of funding they are far less susceptible to the state-sanctioned bullying and financial blackmail regularly meted out by governments in collusion with the corporate elite. By undermining dues collection at source, Hudak hopes to undermine workers’ ability to oppose his agenda.

Last month, Hudak released his party’s white paper on “Flexible Labour Markets” and, in doing so, opened up a new attack on generations of hard-fought workers’ rights. In seeking to repeal the Rand Formula, Hudak opens an affront on workers’ rights that even former premier Mike Harris was unwilling to touch. The Rand Formula is a basic tenet of workplace democracy that was secured nearly 60 years ago to ensure that all those in the workplace who benefit from the improved wages and benefits achieved by the union make the same financial contribution. While the law allows workers not to join a union, they are required to contribute to charity an amount equivalent to the dues paid by union members.
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A New Year a New Class

Today the Canadian Labour Congress Ontario summer school kicked off. Many important course’s are underway to build and renew the labour movement in Canada. The participates have come from all around the province and are settled in to the Family Educational center in Port Elgin.

I have the great opportunity to deliver a course in labour technology and website building. Many trade union activist have for years relied on many forms of union communications (i.e posters, face-to-face meets and union newsletters) however this week we are going to spend our time on another form of union organizing, mobilizing members and educating the greater public with the use of web 2.0 tools. The increase in  smart phone technology and ‘soapbox’ options of transforming the message often not heard or seen in most media outlets today opens opportunity’s for labour to reach out.

In fact as brother Derek Blackadder wrote in the June/July Our Times magazine

Canadians now spend more time online than watching TV. Does your unions communications strategy reflect that? We have far more access to the web in getting out our message than we ever had to TV –

Well this week we hope to harness the tools available to our movement to create the better world that is possible.  Our workshop is focused on the content management system of weebly. A simple drop menu of widgets and elements in a system that new users can quickly pick up, get creative and quickly get their word out on the campaigns and struggles their members and workers around the world are currently facing.

As we build, develop and host discussion of broader communications using the web, I’m sure the unions who have invested in labour education will have a greater equipped activist in their member ranks at the end of this week.  Stay tuned for what’s to come.

Again, I want to thank those who have supported building and supporting the work needed in order to bring this program to our members and our movement.

Proposed changes to Employment Standards under Bill 68, Open for Business Act will create huge barriers for workers who face unpaid wages. The Workers’ Action Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services are calling on the provincial government to stop proposed changes that would bring in mandatory self-enforcement and could force workers to settle for less than what they are owed.
Proposed changes under Bill 68 include:
Mandatory self-enforcement of ESA rights
Bill 68 would require most workers to try and enforce their ESA rights with their boss before filing a claim.
Facilitated settlements
Bill 68 would give the power to the Ministry to settle claims for less than what workers are owed under the law.
Required information before a claim will be accepted
Bill 68 would require workers to provide information about their employer and arguments about their case before a claim will be accepted, without a commitment to provide support to workers filing claims.

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Make a Difference in Your Purchase!

Did you know that what you buy can make a difference in our Country and our community’s now!! We are part of six billion people on the planet; the onus is on us North American’s – the upper 20% that consumes 80% of the world’s resources. Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are band-aid solutions if we don’t address the core problem: we have to consume less, to fix the environmental and ethical consequences of overconsumption. We can help by not purchasing products that contain lots of empty packaging. By leaving our packaging behind at the counter and telling the business you shop at the you didn’t need this packaging they would be responsible for disposing of the waste in extra packaging, in turn they might contact there suppliers to tell them that their customers don’t want extra packaging. By reduce the waste we create we can keep landfills from filling with harmful waste products that contain chemicals and non- bio-degradable materials that harm our environment. We also have the purchasing power to make a difference in our ethical shopping of non-sweatshop garments by insisting that the clothes we ware are made in North America or by companies that have not violated international human rights with child labour. Supporting Local farmers just makes sense. It’s fresher, safer then harmful chemicals used during transportation and best of all supports our local communities. Buying Canadian made products helps keep Canadians working. By just taking these few extra minutes to check where your spending your money can help slow globalization from driving down the cost to our communities. We are the consumers we have the power!!! I realize that not all products are going to be made in Canada… but if it means spending a bit more on a product that is made by my fellow Canadians then it might also be better material and better built. We have to hold business accountable for the products and services they sell. A recent report named the substance PERC (Perchloroethylene) a chemical used in the dry cleaning process to be hazards to our health and can lead to cancer or Liver failure, yet some dry cleaners say they would not stop using PERC. Perhaps a letter advising people that liver failure might occur by using their service is not as important as turning a profit at your customers loss.

Think Globally Act Locally

Think Globally Act Locally

A Focus on Young Workers and Unions

For young workers, the so-called recovery is meaningless to nonexistent. Most of us have been facing a crisis from the very beginning of our working lives. We’ve been unable to build up even the most meager basis for establishing ourselves. Those of us who have tried to strike out on our own in our late teens or early twenties, the way our parents or grandparents did, have found it nearly impossible.

We’ve been faced with poverty wages and non-union jobs, no benefits and zero job security. Most young people are forced to float from job to job, searching desperately for one that might pay fifty cents or a dollar more per hour. And that is if we get really lucky. A few quick facts will help to show the full scope of the picture.

According to one survey, most workers between the ages of eighteen and thirty make $21,000 or less per year, nowhere near a living wage. As of June, the youth unemployment rate (for workers under twenty) was approximately 47 percent, while the picture was even worse in America, with 55 percent of those under twenty terminally unemployed. If the figures for immigrant youth were included, these statistics would be far, far worse.

Those lucky enough to have gone to college enter the work force under a mountain of debt. More than 31 percent of workers under thirty have no health insurance. Most can barely pay the bills and are often forced to live in communal homes or with their families in order to cover the cost of living.

It is a dismal situation. But the situation is not beyond solving. The first task, and the most pressing, is for the trade unions to do what they are supposed to – organize! The unions must organize so-called casual workers in order to secure better conditions for a new generation of workers, and fight militantly for those conditions to remain once won.

The second task for the trade unions is to greatly expand apprenticeship programs. Most unions have already abandoned these. That was a major error! With large-scale apprenticeship programs, a layer of skilled, highly educated and militant unionists can be brought into being virtually overnight. The jobs these apprentices can enter will be high-wage, full benefit jobs, especially in the skilled trades.

In order to have quality jobs available, the unions must mobilize the rank and file and the unemployed for a massive program of public jobs – millions of union jobs — not the paltry ones created by a so called stimulus package.

Thirdly, the trade unions must open union hiring halls, in order to expedite the unemployed into job openings. These hiring halls must be entirely under union control. That demand goes along with that of a closed shop. Union jobs for union workers, with union control over hiring and firing.

Ultimately, however, even if all these measures are put in place, the problem will not be solved entirely. There is no solution for unemployment under capitalism. This system is incapable of providing full employment in the current world economic situation due to the nature of and limits of the market, which demands a smaller workforce producing more. The only system which can perpetually guarantee full employment is socialism.