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Labour Talk • Why we need unions more than ever
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Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 12:22 pm
by NC
Jim Sinclair is blowing the union horn again...
September 1st, 2010

By Jim Sinclair, Special to the Sun

As we get ready to celebrate Labour Day and the contributions made by workers and unions, it is inevitable we will hear another message as well. It will come from business groups or an anti-union “think-tank” and it will predictably go something like this: “We needed unions a hundred years ago, but we don’t need them today.”

People who push this view reluctantly acknowledge the role unions played in winning gains for all workers: increased wages, the five-day work week, pensions, maternity benefits, unemployment insurance, safer workplaces, compensation for injured workers, minimum wages and paid vacations, to name just a few.

Having won these important gains, their suggestion is that unions should simply fold their tents, that government agencies and employers will protect and respect workers’ rights. Experience tells us otherwise. It tells us that workers had to fight hard to win these gains and that workers must fight just as hard to keep them. Nearly every bargaining table in the province has seen a long list of concessions demanded by employers.

Market forces are not kind to the people who go to work every day. They never have been and they never will be. With globalization, stagnant or declining wages, increasing economic uncertainty and a shrinking middle class, we need unions today more than ever.

Try telling Khaira Enterprises tree planters they don’t need a union. Explain that various government regulations and agencies will protect them. Experience has taught them otherwise. Two dozen Khaira workers were rescued from a squalid work camp outside Golden in July. They hadn’t been paid. They were malnourished. The camp was dangerous and basic safety requirements were nonexistent.

Try telling minimum-wage workers they do not need a raise or a union. Most are 20 or older and trying to make ends meet. These workers haven’t seen a salary increase in nine years and are now the lowest-paid workers in all of Canada. Businesses almost always argue against wage increases, which we can sort of understand. What is difficult to understand is the Liberal government’s refusal to increase the minimum wage and the government’s abdication of its responsibility to protect the poorest workers in the province.

Try telling farm workers they don’t need a union, or temporary foreign workers or the tens of thousands of people who work full-time but are paid less than they need to provide the basics for themselves and their families.

Last year the average unionized worker earned $24.47 an hour, while non-union workers were paid $19.89, a difference of $4.58 an hour. Unionized part-time workers earned $7.63 an hour more than non-union part-time workers. Unionized women on average earn 35 per cent more than women who do not belong to a union.

The more unionized workers we have in our province, the stronger our province will be. Main Street merchants understand this. Well-paid workers spend their paycheques in their communities and keep local businesses alive. They also pay the bulk of the taxes that pay for critical public services such as health care and education. The inverse is true too. When unions are under attack, just as they are now, salaries are pushed down, working conditions deteriorate and jobs disappear.

The trade union movement salutes the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who toil to make the province work.

We pledge to continue to build a labour movement and a province that fights for everyone, not just those fortunate to have the dignity a union provides them.

Happy Labour Day.

Jim Sinclair is president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour.

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:36 am
by CollieButler
So here we go, my first post on the forum.
I was reading several comments earlier on the forum and I'm quite surprised by the anti-union sentiments.
Maybe it's because I entered the workforce in the late 70's, probably at the height of workers rights and have watched the decline for the last 30 years.
Many jobs want to pay me a wage less than I made in 1981.

I also find that there is no true "brotherhood" in the workforce today, many think that because they pay dues everything should be done for them.
Companies know that not many will stand together these days and their contract offers reflect that.
Many union shops have now gone to graduated pay scales, spanning a period of 5-7 years.
I have to work 7 years, in a union shop, to make the same as a fellow member.
Who would I blame for this?
Certainly the union is somewhat at fault since, IMO, it flies in the face of everthing sacred about a union, "equal pay for equal work".
However it is the membership most to blame, I have worked at several union shops over the last 30 years and I am amazed how many times the first contract offer has been accepted, almost everytime.
I personally never accept the first offer and would never vote for a contract with a graduated pay scale.
This post should generate a few responses.

:x signed"PO'd" in Ontario!

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:45 am
by green1
In general I've found that the graduated pay scale is pushed for by the union more so than the company. Unions are HUGE on seniority, they want to make sure that being around for a long time has lots of perks, even if you do less work than your co-workers. As a result, the person who's been there 3 years usually does more work than the person who's been around 10, but gets paid less.

As for "worker's rights" a misnomer at best. I have no rights, the union has all of them. It is illegal for me to negotiate with my employer, it's illegal for me to stop paying my union (even when that union threatens me, and refuses to represent me) and it's impossible for workers to get rid of the huge unions that exist today. Unions are NOT a group of employees working for a common cause. None of the executive of my union (or most of them for that matter) are really employees of the company, they work for the union. The union is big business, often bigger than the company, and they care for only two things, money, and power, they will close down a workplace losing hundreds of jobs in a heartbeat rather than lose the illusion that they are more powerful than the employer.

Sure unions started out as a way for workers to stand up against bullying corporations, but that hasn't been the case for decades. The unions are the bullies now, all the advances they claim we will lose if we aren't in a union are now coded in law, not in contract. In fact my union has negotiated things in my contract that are actually LESS than I would get if there was no contract at all (but labour law allows union contracts to override many of the labour laws that would protect the employees) I have no hesitation in saying that I would have a better deal with my company if the union weren't involved, and I have a fair amount of proof of it too, I started as management and my job was re-classified as union, with the reclassification the job didn't change, but I lost several of my benefits, and my pay which was at the "5 year" mark of the union ladder only 1 year in was capped with no ability for me to negotiate better. Further when the union re-negotiated my contract latter, they rejected the company's final offer and went on strike (without a strike vote) and then eventually accepted an offer that was worse for the employees (but better for the union) than the final offer (The agreement in the end took union dues from our lump sum payment that would have been dues free, but reduced several department's overtime from double time to time and a half, among other tweaks)

Unions had a role to play many years ago. Now they are dead weight, leaches sucking money our of their members for little or no gain.

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:47 am
by CollieButler
"I started as management "

This pretty well sums up most of your reply!

As for seniority and union pushing for graduated pay scale, have to fully disagree.

Seniority has many other perks, choice of job, vacation times, shifts, etc.

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:55 am
by green1
oh yes, let's dismiss everything I've experienced because my position originally didn't fall under union jurisdiction...

Then again... maybe there's something to that, the only people who can still support a union these days are those who have never seen anything else?

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:00 am
by CollieButler
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The above was copied from an Ontario job bank this morning, hiring people to work at Honda.
$17/hour to work on an automotive assembly line.
This is what happens when the rights of the workforce is gradually weakened, I've watched the decline for 30 years now.
Many jobs want to pay less than I made in 1981.

This forum is called Labourtalk, I'm surprised by so much pro-management sentiment and the lack of support of unions but then again it has been my experience that most in the workplace really don't stand together when it comes to the crunch.

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:54 pm
by green1
The forum is called LabourTalk because we Talk about Labour issues. Just because we're forced to be in unions doesn't mean we have to like the way they exploit the workers.

Why would I support a Union that refuses to support me? They take millions of dollars from the workers, for what? They don't do anything to defend us against corporate abuses, and in fact are quite willing to negotiate terms in a contract that are BELOW the prevailing labour laws. I don't hesitate for even a second to know that I would have more money in my pocket, better benefits, and better overall employment conditions if I could only break free of the union.

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:19 am
by CollieButler
If I was going to apply for a position at Honda, I'd like to be" forced" to be in a union, at least then I'd be getting what the job's worth.
Not $17/hr through an agency, what a joke.
You are never forced to be in a union, you can decertify ay anytime, obviously the majority favored it at your previous employer.
Personally if I was management and they made me part of the union I'd move on, unless by management you mean lead hand, more or less a title than any real power of authority.

It's pretty obvious that you had a weak membership that would allow you/the union to make management part of the union anyway.
You say it was initiated by the union, were you in the room?
Maybe both the company and union were trying to get rid of you.

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Fri Sep 27, 2013 6:44 am
by green1
I don't think you have any concept of how union negotiations work.
It wasn't "me" they reclassified, it was everyone with my job title. and by management I mean "management professional" (a category of management where you are not in charge of other people, but simply not part of the unionized workforce)
Of course I wasn't in the room, the union would never have allowed it. The union insisted that our work was too close to what unionized people did, and therefore had to be unionized itself, nobody got a say in it. My only choice was either to continue as part of the bargaining unit, or to quit. I wasn't going to let the union drive me out of a job I enjoy with a great employer, so I'm still there more than 10 years later.

As for decertifying, what a joke, sure if it had been the dozen of us reclassified, we could easily have decertified, but the laws are so skewed in favour of the unions (and against the employees) that you have to do it by the entire bargaining unit. How do you decertify over ten thousand employees? You must collect signatures from over half of those employees, and all within only a couple of months, and you aren't allowed to do it while on work time, or at a work location, nor are you entitled to get a list of home contact information, and you aren't allowed to get any funding from your employer to do it. Meanwhile, the moment the union gets wind of it, they will start their own PR campaign against you, funded by millions of dollars of your own money, they will demonize you, and they will threaten you, and there's a very good chance they will send goons to your house to threaten your family and vandalize your property (you see the law insists that the employer must give the union your home address, even if you don't want them to know it.) The logistics are impossible (and designed to be so by the unions who wrote the laws.)

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:23 am
by NC
I really should get in here more often. Thanks for carrying the weight green1, I have been really busy lately and trying to earn the money that keeps this thing running.

Collie, we try to listen to all the sides we can find on issues like what you have raised. I am reading a conflict between the lines of your posts and I have always likened union membership to an abusive relationship. The “victim” is in the relationship to start with because the union looks like a pretty good idea, and in some cases it is but once the beatings start they are too scared to get out. Too often today’s unions are more about money, power, politics and self-preservation. They are not often enough about the members, and instead they only support the Members (big M), the executive and the “line-toers”.

It has been a long time since I had a vent about this and I am not want to get into a great diatribe that I have regurgitated for readers so often in the past but a great example is “Labour Day”. It used to be about the worker, the men and women that do the dirty work, the heavy lifting and the axle greasing that keeps the “machine” running.

Today, in 2013 Labour Day is about big business unions, who claim to have brought us 5 day work weeks and 8 hour days. They take these accomplishments away from the actual workers, and yes managers and supervisors and they pin it to their very well paid union leader’s lapels. They wrap themselves in the mantle of these victories and then demand that these same workers, and indeed *all* workers owe these pariahs for their great efforts. Ken Lewenza and Doug Coles did *nothing* when compared to the labour activists of the 1940’s and 50’s. To my judgment they and now Unifor, their legacy to corruption and pocket lining are nothing but greedy self-motivated insurance salesman peddling false promises from behind the curtain of labour rights.

<rant over, it was a short one>

I hope we hear from you again Collie but I would understand you fading back into the quiet. Please understand that the people writing most of what you read on this site are creations of the “other” side of labour activism. We listen to the people who oppose their unions and do not like what they see when they try to make their workplace better, union-free. We have to hide behind fake names because in BC, if your union makes you a “member-in-bad-standing” you will be fired from your job. In other words, if you try to assert your human right to “not associate” you lose your job. Canada, the last place on earth where labour unions can do that.


Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Wed Oct 09, 2013 3:55 am
by CollieButler
I've never been one to go quietly.
I must say this site is not what I expected when I was doing the search. Could it account for the low volume of frequenters?
I suspect so!
Todays job market is filled with low paying agency jobs, temps training temps, the promise of full-time jobs that never materialize but dangle the carrot in front of the blue collar crowd.

These conditions were not as prevailent in the 70's but people begrudged paying their dues and wanted to get something for nothing so the unions have been steadily losing power, now we are living with the results.

Employees that follow along like good little sheep allowing businesses to take away more and more.

I don't really expect the Canadian workforce to grow a pair at this point, eventually when the working poor can't feed their families then we will see the end result.
I suspect that rioting in the streets will be the final result, I hope that I live to see it!

I don't expect to change anyones mind that is anti-union, just as mine won't change, we had our chance 30 years ago and we blew it.

At least I'll always be able to say, "I stood fast!"

Re: Why we need unions more than ever

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:11 pm
by NC
Good on you Collie, taking a stand and having convictions *is* a rare trait.

I am not going to apologize for our site having its position and you have to grant that it is a unique on for a Canadian site. We are not to your liking and I assure you that there are *plenty* of sites out there that cater to those who support unions and have your position on the matter, hundreds of them I would reckon. However, unlike those other sites, we appreciate having the other side’s input and would value yours if the opportunity arises.

Sometimes we will help whoever has a problem without actually posting to issues to the main site. I apologize for not just showing it all but when someone requests a private room we oblige.

Enjoy your travel, be well and regards.