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Topic: Unions Matter

They fight for fairness for all

CHILD

LIFE GETS BETTER FOR EVERYONE wherever and whenever unions are strong. Studies prove it.

Studies prove when unions win higher pay the wages of all workers rise—even for those not in unions.

Studies also prove overall life gets better because of union activity. The more unions there are in a country the more government does to protect human and civil rights and the more it uses taxes to provide social benefits to everyone—regardless of income level.

Unions successfully fought to expand the Canada Pension Plan in 2016, and as a result all workers will see their CPP benefits increase in the future.

It was the strength of unions that gave us all Medicare, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and safer workplaces. Today unions in Canada are fighting for universal Pharmacare for all Canadians.

Union membership reflects how much Canadians value fairness: the more we value fairness the more unions thrive; the more unions thrive the closer we come to fairness for all.

 

bicycle

 

PRIVATIZATION IS...A CHEAT, A CON, THEFT

PRIVATIZATION IS...

  • toll roads
  • poisoned water
  • grandma left all night in a soggy diaper
  • slap dash construction of schools and hospitals
  • paying a lot more for a lot less

                                 ...A CHEAT.

PRIVATIZATION IS...

what happens when politicians decide to turn government into a cash and carry trade. They do this when they contract with private business operators to deliver public services to us—at a tidy profit to them.

                                ...A CON.

PRIVATIZATION IS...

theft by conversion. It is used to convert public assests we all own into private assests only individuals own.

                                ...THEFT.

 

 

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Topic: The Ways We Win

Poison powder gets the shaft
mining

JANICE MARTELL FOUGHT AND FOUGHT AND FOUGHT—AND WON BIG. Workers made ill by breathing in McIntyre Powder will finally be taken seriously in two big ways.

First, they will be allowed to make claims for worker compensation. Second, the Ontario government will spend $1M on research that workers could turn around and use to support their claims for compensation.

Both wins are the direct result of years of effort put in by Janice Martell and the support she won for the McIntyre Powder Project she founded in 2015.

The project’s first big win came in August when the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) cancelled their policy of automatically denying workers’ claims related to aluminum dust and the development of neurological disorders.

Along with this, they commissioned an independent study by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre that will examine historical records, including the files of over 90,000 Ontario miners, to determine if there is a link to increased risk of brain damage.

The project’s second big win came on October 11 when the Ontario government announced it would spend $1 million to fund a review by the  Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) of the information collected from miners across the country who participate in their intake clinics.

According to the Ministry of Labour, the workers “could then use this information to make claims to the WSIB for potential compensation.”

Janice Martell is clearly elated: “I didn’t think it would happen quite as quickly as it has.”       

Forced to take the ‘cure’ that could kill

McIntyre Powder was supposed to keep miners safe. The powder’s producers claimed that breathing in the aluminum dust deeply before a shift would protect miners from developing silicosis of the lungs, also known as black lung disease, a disease for which miners could claim compensation. It was a lie.

Between 1943 and 1979, over 27,500 miners in Ontario alone were deliberately exposed to this dust.

Most miners had no idea what the powder contained. But even if they had know it was dangerous to their health it wouldn’t have mattered. They had no choice. They had to inhale it.

“There was absolutely no informed consent,” said Martell. “Some of them were locked in. One of the guys told me that they would put chains on the door so nobody could get in or out. It’s forcible confinement is what it is.”

Topic: How Fair is That

Students stood with their teachers in Ontario college faculty strike

paula
Paula Greenberg (right) and classmates support faculty action
 

PAULA GREENBERG HATES TO EVER MISS CLASS. But she hates injustice even more. So, she is stood with her teachers who abandoned their classrooms to go on strike October 16.

The12,000 community college faculty members in Ontario are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). They walked off the job to win a new contract that would improve education quality for students and treat faculty fairly. The best way to do both, say the teachers, is to offer more faculty full time jobs.

Right now a full 70% of the faculty are trapped in the so-called “gig economy” forced to work from one short-term contract to another. Perpetually worried about  how long, or if, their work will last.

Paula sees a strong connection between the bind her teachers at Humber College in Toronto are in and the world she will face after she graduates. “This gig economy of short-term, part-time contracts is not something only our teachers are facing. A lot of millennials are starting to see this become their only choice of employment.”

The college faculty wants a contract that well give them:

  • a 50:50 ratio of full-time to contract faculty
  • long-term contracts for faculty who now work on one-semester contracts
  • academic freedom to give faculty a stronger voice in academic decision-making.

james
James Fauvelle (back right) with fellow student supporters of faculty

Scared for my future

James Fauvelle, a student at Centennial College, is equally disturbed by what the teachers face: “I’m speaking up because I’m scared for my future. The whole reason I went back to school is so that I wouldn’t have to put in 80 hour weeks just to survive, the way I had to in my previous work. But teaching has now become a precarious occupation. If we keep going down this road, this country is just going to fall apart.”

The number of students at Ontario colleges continues to rise. The number of full-time faculty continues to drop. But the number of administrators shoots ever higher—now more than double the rise in the rate of student enrollment.

This Working Life

Football player uses union contract to advance human rights stand
kneeling

COLIN KAEPERNICK IS A SPECIAL FOOTBALL PLAYER. He has a conscience. It’s what led him to protest the systemic racism in the USA. It’s why no team will give him a job any more.

Colin Kaepernick (right) and Eric Reid kneel during national anthem

COLIN KAEPERNICK IS A SPECIAL FOOTBALL PLAYER. He has a conscience. It’s what led him to protest the systemic racism in the USA. It’s why no team will give him a job any more.

He had a job in 2016 as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He had a solid record in many years with the team. He even led the team to a Super Bowl Championship appearance in 2012—their first in 18 years.

But, it was not what he could do on the field that mattered. What mattered was what he did off the field on the sidelines before the game. He refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Now no team wants him.

Kaepernick took the action as a visible protest against the unrelenting mistreatment of African Americans, particularly exemplified by the failure to punish police officers who shot down and killed, without reason, a string of African American men.

Kaepernick explained his action this way: 

“To me, this is bigger than football

and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.

There are bodies in the street

and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick’s kneeling touched off a nationwide controversy. Many players and fans took his side. Most didn’t. Most wanted his kneeling to be about something else—not racism. Most wanted it to be about failing to respect the flag and the military. Most wanted it to be a test of patriotism. A test they believe Colin Kaepernick fails.

The president of the United States himself called on the team owners to fire any player who “took a knee” in solidarity with Kaepernick and his fight against racism.

By the sixth week of season nobody had. Perhaps because the players are part of a union and are covered by a collective agreement. The same collective agreement Kaepernick says entitles him to a settlement of a legitimate grievance he has against the owners.

The Ways We Win

Football players score big in battle with team owners

kneeling

BOSSES ZERO. WORKERS THREE. That’s not how the running battle between players in the National Football League (NFL) and team owners gets reported— but that’s more like the truth of it.

Houston Texans ‘take a knee’ to protest owner’s disrespect

BOSSES ZERO. WORKERS THREE. That’s not how the running battle between players in the National Football League (NFL) and team owners gets reported—but that’s more like the truth of it.

It all began in 2016 when San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the American national anthem during the ceremonies before games. He said it was to protest police killings of African American men and widespread racial injustice in the USA.

He didn’t say anything about looking to strengthen player solidarity—but it happened anyway. The more team owners tried to clamp down on player behaviour the more the players discovered their own power.

Owners at first rejected the iron fist approach. They agreed the players had a constitutional right to speak out. Their concern, they said, was that the way the players were exercising that right was not “appropriate.” They assured the players they were all on the same side. Then the truth came out.

The truth comes out

In late October Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans told reporters that catering to the concerns of players was like “letting inmates run the prison.” That did it.  

There were reports that the entire Texan team considered an immediate full-scale walkout from practice. They also discussed the removal of the team decals before their next game. Even the previously unthinkable idea of a boycott—forfeiting the game—was in the air.

Ultimately the whole team did what the boss didn’t want: they all knelt as the national anthem was played to start their next game.

McNair did apologize for what he said. But apologies carefully crafted for public consumption were never going to fix things. More was at stake than hurt feelings between members of the “NFL family.”

This is about what professor Lou Moore calls a “black labor movement.” That is: the assertion of the economic power of black workers to reclaim their humanity in response to those who would deny it.

The Ways We Win

Waitresses force East Side Mario’s owner to act on sexual harrassment complaints

MEGAN

MEGAN CLEARY WAS DETERMINED TO END HER SEXUAL HARRASSMENT AT WORK. She expected her human rights to be honoured. She didn't stop until they were. 

Twitter:  #METOO

Former East Side Mario’s waitress Megan Cleary (right) with her mother, Dawn Cleary   [Heather Rivers/Sentinel Review]

MEGAN CLEARY WAS DETERMINED TO END HER SEXUAL HARRASSMENT AT WORK. She expected her human rights to be honoured. She didn’t stop until they were.

Megan worked as a waitress at an East Side Mario’s restaurant in Woodstock, Ontario. Her manager subjected her to continuous unwanted sexual advances. The harrassment began with suggestions of sexual touching. It soon escalated to sexual assault when he began to grab Megan’s breasts. He even went so far as to seize her from behind and pull her tight to him.

Megan constantly demanded the manager stop. His actions made her burst into tears. It didn’t matter. He continued his abuse. Finally, Megan and another waitress, decided to take action.

They met with the restaurant’s general manager. Their mothers went along with them. Megan submitted a written complaint. It detailed the ongoing abuse. Five other women also attested to the manager’s attacks.

In addition, the women sent a letter to the franchise owner, Frank Spadafora, and filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

After the meeting, the women were told that the manager would be fired.

Justice denied

But it didn’t happen. Instead he was given a short leave of absence and then allowed to return to work.

The franchise owner had decided there wasn’t enough evidence to remove the manager from his job.“I cannot begin to comprehend that seven different girls experienced such a severity of sexual assault and they didn’t fire the guy,” says Megan.

That’s when she made the painful decision to leave the job she loved. She saw no other way to escape the abuse. But Megan wasn’t done. She and her workmate decided to go to the press. Megan saw it as the only way to protect other women.

Once the media began calling the franchise and Cara foods, the manager was fired.

Attack Income Inequality

equality

UNIONS FIGHT FOR EQUALITY

Equality #1

Less Is Worse

Fewer unions mean more inequality

The decline in unionization in Canada through the 1980s and 1990s has been estimated to account directly for 15% of the rise in inequality.

More Is Better

More unions mean more equality

Unions play a significant role in reducing in equality, through:

  • wage settlements
  • their influence on corporate decisions
  • their impact on establishing public policy.

Canadian Union Coverage and Gini Coefficient 1980-2010

Chart: Canadian Union Coverage and Gini Coefficient

A Gini co-efficient of zero expresses perfect equality. The higher the Gini coefficient the higher the inequality.

How Fair is That

CLI study: Laws turn joining a union into an obstacle course

unions

IT’S JUST TOO DAMN HARD TO JOIN A UNION. That’s the compelling conclusion of new research from the Canadian Labour Institute (CLI). It is also a resounding rebuke to all the bogus “evidence” that unions just don’t matter any more.

IT’S JUST TOO DAMN HARD TO JOIN A UNION. That’s the compelling conclusion of new research from the Canadian Labour Institute (CLI). It is also a resounding rebuke to all the bogus “evidence” that unions just don’t matter any more.

How much unions matter should be above dispute. After all our Supreme Court has said how important unions are to us all in ruling after ruling.

In 2007 the court ruled the right to bargain collectively is “a fundamental aspect of Canadian society” that “reaffirms the values of dignity, personal autonomy, equality and democracy” upheld by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In January 2015, the court went on to rule that workers not only have that right, but the related rights to choose the bargaining agent of their choice and to strike

Still, workers don’t seem to be getting the message. If they did they’d be joining unions in droves. But they aren’t: the rate of unionization in Canada has been dropping since 1984 (42% then, just above 30% now)? Proof that unions don’t matter to workers say the business and media elites. Not so, says Brodie Noga author of the CLI study.

His research shows the main reason union membership is in decline is not that workers don’t want to join—it’s that laws make it too damn hard to join. Specifically: laws that set out how workers are permitted to organize.

The research data rules out other factors like changing technology and globalization. Domestic politics, on the other hand, continues to loom large.

The certification obstacle course

Workers who decide to join together to win better wages and employment conditions don’t just get together in their workplaces, call themselves a union and start collective bargaining. To unionize under Canadian law, they are required to run an obstacle course of hoops and hurdles called certification. (And some aren’t even allowed to join the race.)

Since 1982, there have been no fewer than 78 changes to provincial and federal laws that restrict the right to organize unions and bargain collectively. Eight of these have made certification more difficult.

This Working Life

Worker’s death proves all work is precarious

Justin Mathews

JUSTIN MATHEWS IS DEAD. His job killed him. It happens a lot. Mostly because we just don’t care enough about worker safety. It was that kind of carelessness that killed Justin.

Justin Mathews died on the job in Edmonton on October 2 2017

JUSTIN MATHEWS IS DEAD. His job killed him. It happens a lot. Mostly because we just don’t care enough about worker safety. It was that kind of carelessness that killed Justin.

Justin was doing his job inside the Rossdale fire station in Edmonton on October 2 2017. He was checking air quality to make sure it was safe for the workers there to breathe. He didn’t know the air wasn’t safe for him to breathe. That’s what killed him.

The air was full of dust contaminated with walnut particles used in sandblasting in the building. Nobody told Justin.

Justin had a life-threatening allergy to nuts. When he breathed in the walnut contaminated dust he started gasping for air. He rushed outside.

“He went to the car outside and he couldn’t breathe. He was leaning on the car and trying to catch [his] breath,” his mother said.

Then he collapsed and fell to the ground. Edmonton fire crews responded first, followed by an ambulance. They did all they could to help Justin. But, they did not have EpiPens used to counteract anaphylactic shock. Justin didn’t carry one either. He died.

“First responders need to have EpiPens with them because 10 minutes when you’re in anaphylactic shock is too long. You can’t wait that long. Your body will start shutting down and it will result in brain death,” said Justin’s sister Shari Reklow.

Justin’s parents said he wouldn’t expect to have a reaction unless he was eating. He was very cautious when ordering food, they said.

Nuts not just a danger in foods

Shari Reklow wants accountability for her brother’s death. She believes the use of walnut-based products should be regulated in a similar way to food and warnings issued.

“There is a flaw for sure, and I’m really sorry my brother had to pay the price. We’re all paying the price now,” Reklow said.

“Nut allergies are taken very seriously in foods. How many times do you see ‘may contain nuts’, or ‘come into contact with nuts’ on a food label?”

“It’s not just in food. Nuts are being used in commercial and industrial applications and that needs to be regulated. Right now, as far as I can see within WHMIS, it’s not a controlled or regulated substance.”

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