- Saqib Bhatti and Stephen Lerner point out that the struggle for power between labour and capital is far from over, and that the next step may be to engage on wider questions of economic control:
For too long most unions defined their mission narrowly as winning higher wages and benefits for unionized workers without challenging how companies were managed or how capital was invested and controlled. Unions accepted that it was management’s job to run companies and the broader economy, and that the unions’ primary job was to get as much as possible for their members.- Gabriel Winant also offers a noteworthy look at the state of the U.S.' labour movement. And Tom Parkin points out how a larger self-identified working class may be an increasingly important force in Canadian politics, while Sid Ryan comments on the state of the relationship between Canadian labour and the NDP.
This still dominates labor’s thinking: we focus on income inequality but not wealth inequality; we focus on how to raise the bottom, but not how to stop wealth from concentrating at the top; we deal with our direct employers, but not those who really control the broader socioeconomic conditions in which our members work and their families live.
We have bought into the notion that the boss is entitled to endless profits and should be allowed to have control of the business and the economy as long as our members win incremental improvements in every contract. But that bargain no longer works.
(U)nions don’t typically enter into negotiations with the investors. They deal with their direct employer, even though in many major companies investors, even the CEOs, are ultimately constrained by the pressures put on them by investors.
Unions need to start looking to these actors higher up the food chain, to the people who control the money in the public sector as well as the private sector.
In the public sector, state and local officials accurately decry the fact that there is not enough money in public coffers to properly fund public services. However, the reason why there isn’t enough money is that corporations and the wealthy have waged a sustained war on taxes over the past forty years to avoid paying more.
Increasingly, these corporations are owned by Wall Street investors seeking to cut taxes in order to increase their return on investment. These wealthy few have a large part of their wealth tied up in the financial sector.
By trying to squeeze pennies out of public officials while letting the billionaires and bankers off the hook, public-sector unions are fighting with one hand tied behind their back.
- Mersiha Gadzo identifies plenty of the ways in which Justin Trudeau has combined a sunny disposition with the same dark actions we'd expect from the Harper Cons. But Nora Loreto argues that progressive activists will need to develop new strategies to address Trudeau rather than Harper.
- Finally, Sir Michael Marmot discusses the social causes of economic inequality, while pointing out the need to ensure a greater focus on all social determinants of health.