Monday, September 04, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Labour Day reading.

- Ed Finn offers a reminder of the rights and benefits we now take for granted which were won only through labour organization:
Look back at Canada’s 150-year history, and you’ll find that many of the basic rights and benefits we all enjoy were originally fought for and won by unions. Unions were in the forefront of the struggles for public health care, for public education and pensions, for improvements in employment conditions and the minimum wage.

Most employees today work 40 hours or less a week instead of 50 or more, because in the 1950s the railroad unions went on strike for a shorter work week with the same pay. They won that historic battle, a labour victory that led in a few years to the adoption of the 40-hour work week as a standard schedule for all workers, unionized or not.

Later, the provision of year-long legislated paid parental leave was initiated at the bargaining table by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which made it a priority in negotiations. This gain, too, soon became a universal benefit.

In both the private and public sectors, it was the unions, through collective bargaining, that also pioneered overtime pay, sick leave, paid vacations, jointly funded pension plans and other now-taken-for-granted employment benefits.

Without the unions, striving arduously over the years in so many ways, in cities and towns from coast to coast, the socioeconomic strands that hold our country together today would not be nearly so sturdy.
- Neil Irwin examines the career paths of janitorial workers a few decades ago compared to today as a prime example of how outsourcing and other precarious work arrangements limit the opportunity for workers to advance. David Well comments on the desperate need for public policy aimed at better protecting and accounting for the interests of workers caught in those traps. Lawrence Summers points out the role governments need to play in facilitating labour organization. And David Olive highlights the benefits of a more fair minimum wage.

- But Helaine Olen points out how the Trump administration is instead engaged in concerted attacks on the U.S. labour force. And Michael Paarlberg writes about the dishonesty in Trump's promises to protect workers.

- Suzanne Moore discusses the importance of  the UK McDonald's strike and other shows of solidarity within the precarious workforce. And Lana Payne offers a reminder that the labour movement needs to focus particularly on young workers.   

- Dennis Gruending points out that the benefits of union extend far beyond their membership or even workers generally, while Alejandra Bravo writes about the importance of worker organization as a means to spur social change. And Kira Lerner reports on the efforts of U.S. unions to do just that in the Midwest where standards have been deteriorating rapidly under corporatist governors, while Gregory Beatty highlights how Brad Wall's contempt for workers has tarnished his legacy.

- Finally, the Canadian Labour Congress discusses its push for a national pharmacare program as the latest major project to build a better Canada for everybody, while Hassan Yussuff makes the case for the plan in the Star.

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