- Jordan Brennan examines the close links between strong organized labour and improved wages for all types of workers:
U.S. scholars have found that higher rates of state-level unionization help reduce working poverty in unionized and non-unionized households and that the effects of unionization are larger than macro performance and social policies in those states. Research shows that the decline of U.S. unions between 1973 and 2007 explains one-fifth to one-third of the growth in U.S. wage inequality—a magnitude comparable to the growing stratification of wages by education. A 2010 study used data from 14,000 respondents in 14 countries and found that life satisfaction is directly related to the level of unionization and that union members report higher life satisfaction than non-union members.- Meanwhile, David Dayen notes that U.S. incomes are still increasing only at the very top - and that the result figures to be a burgeoning social movement reviving the concept of forcing change through collective action.
Given the foregoing, ‘unionization’ provides an answer to two questions: ‘What drives income inequality?’ and ‘What can we do about it?’
Union renewal will be difficult in the current political climate, given the hostility governments currently express to the very idea of collective bargaining. The optimistic assessment is that governments are attacking unions despite the fact that unions play a progressive role in middle class formation. The more cynical assessment is that governments are attacking unions (cheered on by factions in the corporate sector) because they understand the role that unions play in building a shared prosperity.
In either case, if unions are going to continue their historic role as elevators of working conditions and lifters of living standards, governments must cease their attacks. But the absence of government hostility will not be enough for unions to flourish in the future. Instead, a supportive policy environment where union security is not only tolerated but nurtured is a crucial ingredient in union renewal.
- The Alberta Federation of Labour points out how negligent enforcement of rules governing temporary foreign workers has been putting Alberta at risk. And Bill Tieleman's commentary on the B.C. Libs' school shutdown points out that the teacher's union is simply fighting for class size and composition standards which ultimately benefit students.
- William Marsden reports that Canada's growing list of international embarrassments includes the title of greatest destroyer of natural forests on the planet since 2000. Andrea Germanos discusses a U.S. court's decision on liability for BP's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill - just in time for oil giants to start drilling in Canada's Arctic region with lax spill response standards. And PressProgress reveals that the oil sector is far from finished demanding that Canada's laws be rewritten to place its interests ahead of the environment (and all other considerations).
- Finally, Denise Balkissoon writes about the need to actively change politics as part of a functioning democratic system, rather than merely complaining about them as something inflicted from outside. And Don Braid's take on Alberta's PC leadership race looks to offer a truly sad example of what happens when all policies and ideals are purged from an electoral process.