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A number of labour reform proposals on the agenda at this weekend’s Conservative party convention could be signs that the party is shifting further to the right, political observers say.
At least nine resolutions for amendments to the Conservative party’s policy book seek to crack down on the power of organized labour. The labour reform proposals are sponsored by various riding associations in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.
Many call for an end to union political involvement, but one amendment seeks a more radical change to the Rand formula, a staple of Canadian labour relations that requires all employees in a unionized environment to pay union dues regardless of whether they join.
The number of proposals and the radical nature of a few of them suggest that the party is taking a cue from the American right wing, said Peter Woolstencroft, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo who focuses on the history of the Conservative party.
“In the Conservative party in the last little while there has been regard for what’s happening in the United States,” he said. “Right to work and other pieces of legislation or actions have been pointing towards cutting back on the power of unions.”
Some Conservatives, notably Ontario’s Tim Hudak and MP Pierre Poilievre, have been vocal in their support for U.S. “right-to-work” style laws since last December, when Michigan became the 24th state to make compulsory union dues illegal.
Such laws have become increasingly popular since the 2008-2009 recession as a means to lure businesses into economically depressed states but have also attracted criticism. U.S. President Barack Obama has said the title is a misnomer for laws that really mean “the right to work for less money.”
The Conservative association of Poilievre’s riding is one of the most overt in calling to end mandatory union membership. The Tory government has previously shot down suggestions the Conservatives are considering such legislation and Labour Minister Kellie Leitch declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Leitch said earlier this week that the Minister would not “speculate on the potential outcomes of the convention”.
The Perth-Wellington electoral district association in southern Ontario was the only one actually to mention right-to-work by name in its proposal. Its amendment seeks Conservative support for “right-to-work legislation to allow optional union membership including student unions.”
The amendment proposed by Poilievre’s Nepean-Carleton riding near Ottawa says that “unions should be democratic and voluntary,” that labour laws should provide workers with “protections against forced union dues for political and social causes that are unrelated to the workplace”. It also says labour laws should respect the UN Declaration on Human Rights article stating that “no one may be compelled to belong to an association.”
An equally aggressive amendment comes from the Alfred-Pellan electoral district association, whose head office in Laval is calling on the party to support a restructuring of the “legislative protection of the Rand formula so as to provide full and effective protection to the right of all workers not to associate with broad political positions they deem oppressive of their respective personal identities.”
Story continues below slideshow:
States With The Weakest Unions
The proposals are not out of the Tory blue. Issues such as right-to-work and elimination of the Rand principle have always been discussed in party circles but have not necessarily made it onto the agenda until now, Woolstencroft said.
However Woolstencroft believes that the most radical proposals are likely to be left on the convention floor.
“The bulk of the party knows that they have a PR game that they’re playing, and they don’t want to be easily castigated as anti-this or anti-that,” he said. “So what they’re going to do is move incrementally.”
In any case, resolution at the federal level would mostly be paying lip service to the elimination of mandatory union dues. Labour laws, are provincially administered and regulated outside of federally regulated businesses and federal public sector employees.
Still, the nine labour-related initiatives have already successfully passed the scrutiny of the party’s national policy committee, where national and political wings of the party debated and whittled down a list of 274 proposals. That signals that the party’s policy wonks believe the proposals are at least worth consideration.
The initiatives will be voted on during closed-door sessions. If any receives a majority of delegate votes, it could be included in the 10 policy resolutions placed on the plenary agenda. In the plenary session, the proposal can be adopted into party policy if it gets enough votes.
The Tories seems to be seizing on a moment when unions are vulnerable amid declining membership and loss of public favour, Woolstencroft said.
Canada’s two largest unions, The Canadians Auto Workers and Communication, Energy and Paper Workers Union, merged into a super-union in September, acknowledging that the labour movement needs more heft if it wants to survive. And the newly created Unifor union wasted no time in declaring its political intentions. At its founding convention, Naomi Klein spoke of ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper and one of its first acts was to endorse NDP MP Olivia Chow for mayor of Toronto.
Perhaps it is no surprise then that a common thread among the convention proposals is preventing unions from becoming politically involved.
One proposal from Edmonton-Sherwood Park asks the party to amend its labour policy to include the belief that “the government should prevent mandatory dues collected by unions from being diverted to fund political causes unrelated to workplace needs.”
One submitted jointly by Mississauga East-Cooksville and Sudbury says that “union dues paid by members should not be donated by the union to third-party organizations without the consent of the members.”
Many proposals dealt with increasing union transparency, similar to the controversial Bill C-377 that was blocked in the Senate in June. The bill aimed to make it mandatory for unions to file annual public financial statements and has now been sent back to the House.
None of the riding associations were available to comment on their proposals.
New Democrat labour critic Alexandre Boulerice says he has noticed an anti-labour shift in the Conservative caucus, and he believes they are contemplating “right-to-work” legislation.
“The Progressive Conservatives were not anti-union at all,” he said, “But now we can feel that they want to break the backbone of the labour movement in Canada.”
Boulerice believes the Prime Minister’s office intends to whittle away at union rights. He points to Bill C-525, which was introduced in June and would make the union certification process more onerous for federal employees.
Peter Coleman, president of the National Citizens Coalition, believes the Conservatives are sensing a change in public thinking about the role of unions and are acting, through bills such as C-377, to curtail their power.
While some of the convention proposals are “just pie in the sky,” he said, they indicate that Conservatives are more willing at least to discuss anti-union moves, even if they are not likely to be adopted as party policy.
“They throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks and see what the moderate, temperate voices come up with,” he said.
“I do believe there’s a lot of work in the Conservative party at the federal level to get some of these things brought forward.”
Former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich explained, saying:
“Of all developed nations, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income, and we’re surging towards every greater inequality.”
America’s 400 richest elites have more wealth than half the population. Jacob Kornbluth’s new documentary film “Inequality for All” examines disturbing truths.
US inequality is at historic highs. Since 1970, America’s economy doubled. The top 1% benefitted hugely. They earn more than 20% of national income. It’s triple their 1970 percentage.
The gap between rich and all others keeps widening. Inequality hurts everyone, says Reich. Since economic recovery began in 2009, America’s top 1% got 95% of the gains.
Adjusted for inflation, median household income keeps declining. Where will most people “get the money they need to keep the economy going,” asked Reich?
“We’re the richest economy in the history of the world. For the majority of Americans not to get the benefits of this extraordinarily prosperous economy, you know, there’s something fundamentally wrong.”
America has less upward mobility than any other developed country. If you’re poor, you’ll stay that way.
If you’re lower middle class, “the cards are going to be stacked against you. You will probably never get anywhere,” says Reich.
“Who is actually looking out for the American worker? The answer is nobody.”
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The nation is headed toward becoming a “100 percent plutocracy.” Inequality this extreme fuels public anger. It hurts economic growth. Force-fed austerity assures worse ahead.
Reich teaches a popular Wealth and Poverty course at UC Berkeley. His book “Beyond Outrage” explains what’s wrong with America’s economy.
It doesn’t work. It benefits the privileged few. It harms most others. Doing so undermines America. Expect worse ahead unless people react, he says.
He’s never been more concerned about things than now. He cites “the corrupting effects of big money in politics,” regressive hard right policies, and unprecedented “wealth and power at the very top.”
Things are “perilously close” to falling apart altogether. People are right to be outraged. It’s a “prerequisite for social change.” It’s vital to “move beyond outrage and take action.”
The stakes are too high to be ignored. Nothing good happens in Washington unless people mobilize, organize and demand it.
“Nothing worth changing in America will actually change unless you and others like you are committed to achieving that change,” he stresses.
So-called US economic recovery is fake. Main Street poverty, unemployment, underemployment, hunger and homelessness are at Depression era levels.
Half of all US households are impoverished or bordering it. Recovery benefitted only America’s most well off. Most others endure deepening deprivation.
According to economist Emmanuel Saez:
“For the first time in nearly 100 years, the percentage of income taken by the top 10 percent of Americans topped 50 percent.”
From 2009 to 2012, “(t)op 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew by only 0.4%.” Adjusted for inflation, they declined considerably.
From 2007 – 2009, average real family income declined 17.4%. It’s more than any period since the Great Depression. Wealthy Americans recovered and then some. Conditions for most others went from bad to worse.
According to Saez:
“We need to decide as a society whether this increase in income inequality is efficient and acceptable and, if not, what mix of institutional and tax reforms should be developed to counter it.”
Russell Sage Foundation president Sheldon Danziger said:
“The continued high rate of poverty is no surprise, given ongoing high unemployment, stagnant wages and government spending cuts.”
“Poverty is higher today than it was in 2000, and household incomes are lower. The ‘lost decade’ is likely to turn into ‘two lost decades.’ ”
According to Marx:
“Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, and mental degradation at the opposite pole.”
America’s wealth distribution is extreme. It keeps shifting disproportionately upward. Most people are more than ever on their own.
Financial elites run America. Whatever they want they get. Popular needs go begging. Things go from bad to worse.
In 1962, Michael Harrington’s “The Other America: Poverty in the United States” exposed the nation’s dark side, saying:
“In morality and in justice, every citizen should be committed to abolishing the other America, for it is intolerable that the richest nation in human history should allow such needless suffering.”
“But more than that, if we solve the problem of the other America we will have learned how to solve the problems of all of America.”
Jack Kennedy addressed the issue. In his January 8, 1964 State of the Union address, Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty.
He barely scratched it. Inequality was severe. Today, it’s unprecedented and growing. It bears repeating. Census data show around half of US households impoverished or bordering it.
Government data most often over-estimate good news and understate what’s bad. Unprecedented numbers of US households are impoverished under protracted Main Street Depression conditions.
Bipartisan harshness assures greater pain and suffering. Over 20% of US households haven’t enough money for food and other essentials.
On November 1, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit cuts are coming. One-person households will get $11 per month less.
For 2 people, it’s $20. For three it’s $29. For four it’s $36. Expect more cuts ahead. Food costs are rising. Family incomes are falling. More help is needed. Congress and Obama intend less.
America’s most needy will be harmed most. So will tens of millions of children. They may end up without enough to eat.
America’s great divide is greater than ever. In 2009, around half of US households had no assets. Today it’s more than half.
Most Americans don’t earn enough to live on. Things go from bad to worse. Hardwired inequality is deepening. Casino capitalism takes precedence.
America’s criminal class alone benefits. Ordinary people are swindled. Venal politicians serve wealth, power and privilege. Democrats and Republicans are in lockstep. Few benefit at the expense of most others.
On July 28, AP headlined “Exclusive: Signs of Declining Economic Security,” saying:
“Four out of 5 US adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.”
It’s a disturbing “sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”
“Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized US economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.”
Hardship for white Americans is rising. AP-GfK poll numbers show “63 percent of whites called the economy ‘poor.’ ”
Fifty-two-year-old Irene Salyers perhaps spoke for others, saying:
“I think it’s going to get worse. If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work.”
Economic insecurity is much worse than government data show. It affects over three-fourths of white Americans.
It’s defined as experiencing unemployment some time during working years or needing government aid to survive.
According to Professor William Julius Wilson:
“It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position.”
Government data fall short of explaining things. Conditions are much worse than official reports. Most Americans struggle to get by. Impoverishment or close to it affect them.
It’s harder than ever for millions of disadvantaged households to survive. Their numbers keep growing exponentially. Vital social protections are eroding. It’s happening when they’re most needed.
“By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent.”
“But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.”
“By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the US will experience bouts of economic insecurity.”
According to Professor Mark Rank:
“Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them.’ It’s an issue of ‘us.’ Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.”
Data Professors Tom Hirschl and John Iceland compiled provide more context. They show:
• for the first time in nearly three decades, impoverished single-mother households surpassed or equaled black ones; they exceeded numbers of Hispanic single mother families; and
• numbers of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods increased.
According to a University of Chicago General Social Survey, whites are more pessimistic about their futures than since the depths of the early 1980s.
“Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America,” said AP.
Polls show over 80% of Americans mostly don’t trust government. Congress’ approval rating is 11%.
It’s barely above its all-time February and August 2012 10% low. Given the margin of error, they’re’s virtually no difference between then and now.
Americans are suffering. Things go from bad to worse. Republicans and Democrats are in lockstep. They’re cutting social protections when they’re most needed.
Expect greater harshness ahead. Most people are fed up. Poll numbers show it. Conditions are far too deplorable to ignore. It remains to be seen what’s next.
A previous article said people power alone can save us. They’re’s no other way.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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- Why Robert Reich cares so passionately about economic inequality (pbs.org)
- ‘Inequality is bad for everyone’: Robert Reich fights against economic imbalance (pbs.org)
- Must-See Movie, “Inequality for All” with Robert Reich, Opens Sept. 27 (huffingtonpost.com)
- More Inequality Updates (madeinamericathebook.wordpress.com)
- Project Censored’s Top 25 Most Censored News Stories from 2012-2013 (consciouslifenews.com)
We have heard all day long what a dismal wreck the Republican Party is about to become, or has, courtesy of the “Wheel of Misfortune” among others. In light of this “fold” we though the following “infographic”, courtesy of Jim Quinn’s Burning Platform, would help with a “fair and balanced” perspective ofjust how irresponsible Washington has become, and that at the end of the day, there is no difference between “our” team and “their” team.
- Decision looms in Holder’s Fast and Furious contempt case (nraila.org)
- ATF tries to block Fast and Furious whistle-blower from publishing book (foxnews.com)
- ZeroHedge: Patriot Act Author Calls For Clapper’s Prosecution And Reign In NSA Abuses (silveristhenew.com)
- NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally (fedcyber.com)
- Obamacare’s Mandate Of Death And Destruction (personalliberty.com)
- ‘Obamacare’: Ill informed people? #funfact (falkenhaug.com)
A former Labour cabinet minister has warned that GCHQ and Britain’s other intelligence agencies appear to be undertaking mass surveillancewithout parliament’s consent because the coalition failed to get the so-called “snoopers’ charter” passed into law after Liberal Democrat opposition.
Nick Brown, a former chief whip who sat on the parliamentary committee scrutinising the draft communications data bill, said there was an “uncanny” similarity between the GCHQ surveillance programmes exposed by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden and proposals in the first part of the bill.
The communications data bill – dubbed the “snoopers’ charter” by critics – would have given GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 much greater powers to gather and save information about people’s internet activities but it was shelved in the spring amid Lib Dem fears that it intruded too much into privacy.
Brown, a Labour MP, said that it “looks very much like this is what is happening anyway, with or without parliament’s consent” under GCHQ’s secret Tempora programme, which was revealed by the Guardian in July in reports based on files leaked by Snowden. Tempora allows GCHQ to harvest, store and analyse millions of phone calls, emails and search engine queries by tapping the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic….
- Snowden leaks: MI5 chief accused of using ‘foolish self-serving rhetoric’ (theguardian.com)
- Guardian’s NSA revelations: spies to go under spotlight (theguardian.com)
- Conservative peer Lord Blencathra hits out at online spying by GCHQ (theguardian.com)
- GCHQ techniques ‘not disclosed’ (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Why are the Conservatives keeping Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations secret? (macleans.ca)
- Trans-Pacific Partnership Breaks Down Sovereignty and GMO Protections (truthstreammedia.com)
- Trans-Pacific Partnership talks hit roadblock over anti-smoking policies (theglobeandmail.com)
- Sen. Rand Paul fights Obama’s Fast-Tracking Attempt w/ TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership! (Another Corporatist ‘Free Trade’ BS) (dailypaul.com)
- Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement could lead to fewer U.S. jobs (blacklistednews.com)
- UK house prices see ‘modest’ rise (bbc.co.uk)
- Beware the bubble: We risk another housing crash, warns Bank governor (metro.co.uk)
- Nationwide helps first-time buyers with a record low 2.54% rate (guardian.co.uk)