Monday, October 01, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jim Stanford writes that the D-J Composites lockout should offer Canada a much-needed reminder as to the reality of labour conflict:
Through 640 emotional days, the picket line has remained peaceful: the only injury was a union member hit by a vehicle charging through the line during a snowstorm. But genuine economic violence is being done every day to 32 workers separated from their livelihoods by an aggressive employer. The employer's position is all the stronger when it can hire others to keep working for less -- but no replacement worker should ever think they can participate in that process without facing scrutiny or challenge.

Ironically, Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball has a promising solution to this mess sitting right on his desk, in the form of recommendations from an Industrial Inquiry Commission convened by the provincial government in 2010 following a long dispute at Vale's nickel operations in Voisey's Bay. Headed by labour lawyer John Roil, and advised by Prof. Gregor Murray, labour-relations specialist at the University of Montreal, the commission recognized the traditional balance of power between employers and workers has been disrupted by the power and flexibility exercised by global corporations. They recommended modernizing labour law to ensure foreign firms understand and respect Canadian practices. They also proposed a fallback mechanism to arbitrate settlements in intractable disputes, so long as certain conditions are met, including failure to bargain in good faith.

Those sensible recommendations were never implemented, but they were tailor-made to prevent long work stoppages such as this one. Prohibiting replacement workers -- especially during management-led lockouts -- would also promote faster settlements; British Columbia and Quebec already do this. In the end, provincial intervention of some kind is essential to end this conflict.

The D-J Composites lockout, while small, is a telling reminder that employers hold the upper hand in most modern industrial disputes -- and Canadian labour law has failed to address this imbalance. Economists and politicians alike bemoan persistently weak wage growth and stagnant household incomes. But this nasty little quarrel reveals exactly why this is happening. Governments across the country, starting with Mr. Ball's, should watch and learn.
- Claude Wittmann discusses the Ford government's blame-and-shame approach to poverty and the people who face it.

- David Moscrop comments on the folly of falling in line with the U.S.' destructive War on Drugs. And Tessie Castillo points out that the criminalization of drug use is precisely what makes it more dangerous than other potentially addictive activities.

- Brent Patterson offers a reminder (if perhaps one which came too late) as to why we're best served walking away from NAFTA.

- Finally, Max FineDay highlights the need to push back against weaponized misinformation such as residential school denialism.

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