Saturday, August 03, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Saturday reading.

- Rick Salutin writes about the need for the labour movement to better promote its contribution to the general public - and my only quibble is that I'd prefer to see a focus on what still can be (and needs to be) done rather than past victories:
(W)hy don't (unions) contest the battle for the public mind? I don't know why but they don't, or rarely do. They seem to have lost track of that tactic. It went missing in the Ontario teachers conflict this year, too. The unions made little or no effort to explain their case and enlist parents, students and citizens on their side. That left the McGuinty government with the role of defender of the taxpayers.

It's not inevitable. The Chicago teachers' union laboured for wider support and won their strike with it. This matters not just because it would be smart for unions. It's because they, for about a century, have been central to general social improvement. They provided inspiration, resources, organization: without them there would not have been public health care, universal pensions, health and safety laws, the whole panoply of the (now disputed) welfare state.
It's a daunting challenge for unions. Today they barely exist in the public mind. A few decades ago, if you asked people to free-associate with "union" you'd get many responses: strikes, chants, acronyms, leaders, songs. Now, at least among the young, you'd probably get mostly blanks. Nothing. On the other hand, a blank slate isn't the worst place to start.
- Bill Curry reports that the federal government is studying the use of behavioural "nudges" in other countries as a basis for Canadian programs. But it's well worth questioning whether those nudges are being used to generate actual positive outcomes, or merely new profit centres for well-connected rent-seekers - and the Cons' choice to push workers toward private pensions rather than expanding the lower-cost Canada Pension Plan offers nothing but reason for concern on that front.

- Janina Enrile writes about the pluses of a guaranteed annual income among other means to alleviate poverty:
The senator for Kingston-Frontenac-Leeds is calling for policy changes in government, following a report from the Canadian Medical Association that says bad health can be a result of poverty.

Hugh Segal said this can be helped through the implementation of a guaranteed annual income, which would alleviate concerns for people who couldn’t afford healthier food, which is often more expensive.
 It’s why the introduction of a guaranteed annual income would help especially, said Elaine Power, a Queen’s University professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies.

“It would cost a lot in the short term,” she said. “As a long-term investment strategy, I think it’s the most important thing we can do for the health and the fiscal sustainability of the country.”

The poor nutrition that results from a lower income adds to other anxieties, Power said.

“That contributes to your health... There’s the stress of knowing that other people have better lives than you. There’s the stress of being a parent and knowing you can’t provide for your children,” she said. “The chronic stress probably interacts with poor nutrition (and) chronic malnutrition to make things even worse.”
- Meanwhile, CBC reports on the NDP's eminently reasonable proposal to at least ensure that municipalities are informed about dangerous goods being shipped through their territory. But I'd fully expect even that modest suggestion to be met with a wave of corporatist blather about the "red tape" involved in allowing communities to prepare for the risks shippers want to impose on them.

- Finally, Enrique Mendizabal offers a concise set of theories as to how change can happen - with the choices serving as both an important set of considerations for issue-based organizations, and a set of criteria by which to evaluate our political choices.

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