Friday, June 26, 2009

Selley on what stinks

... Today, however, I’m not clear whether union leaders give a damn about public opinion—or indeed, the public. Whenever there’s a public sector strike, you’ll hear people say ruefully that Tactic X—say, blocking taxpayers’ access to municipal buildings, parking garages and the hell-on-earth waste transfer stations they’ve been forced to drive to precisely because of the strike—won’t win them any support. But surely even union leaders can’t be deluded enough to think it will.


[C]learly the labour movement is not on an upward trajectory. It’s in a corkscrew dive. Its automaking brothers and sisters are giving up salary, benefits and old age security like candy on Halloween. People urging CUPE members to surrender their obscene sick leave entitlements are citing precedent in cities all over the country and continent. The picketers I saw this week chanting “fee-fi-fo-fum, we won’t give up what we’ve already won” under the crack of an organizer's whip looked dispirited and embarrassed, and rightfully so. It’s difficult to see how any of this is helping The Worker, writ large. And yet these unions still have the time to operate as a sort of leftist pamphlet made flesh: Palestine this, abortion that, free sex changes for everyone! To people of my generation and younger, they might as well be alien life forms speaking in extraterrestrial riddles. We literally have no idea what the hell these people are on about.

In short, I think it’s incumbent upon the labour movement and its component unions to justify their continued existence to Canadians—to explain how they’re not, perversely, a force for inequality in society. If they’re around solely to protect their members’ entitlements (or, at least, their senior members’) no matter now ridiculous those entitlements are—if they’re just the last, scrappy vestiges of a cause that’s already admitted defeat, or perhaps even victory—then there’s not much reason for Canadians to support them. There’s sure as bloody hell no reason to support them if they actually turn against those Canadians, whose taxes, after all, underwrite the entitlements.

Chris Selley, The labour movement needs to justify its existence