Monday, September 6, 2010

Relevancy of the Labour Movement

Labour Day is a very important day for all people; for some it is a celebration of the Labour Movement and its history of improving the lives of working people and for some it is their annual invitation to question the relevance of Unions. This question is the hallmark of those not educated about unions, but perhaps, even darker, it may the annual call of those who through fomenting this controversy propagate misunderstanding such that people are denied the opportunity to receive an unbiased view of what Unions have done for workers and what is possible going forward. The only purpose served by denying people the information is to intentionally prevent people from establishing an educated understanding of trade unionism such that they will seek what is rightfully theirs; fair compensation, pensions, safety, fair wages and respect as a few examples.

The most ironic facet of this debate is that unions are all around us yet it seems that it is only labour unions that are the victim of the question of relevancy. A union is but the conscious choice by a group of people to work together for their collective good. On the macroscopic level this is represented by the union of the provinces of Canada or the states of the USA who came together to make life better and to protect their citizens. On the smaller scale the gathering of stores on Main Street to form a business improvement organization is nothing more than a union of stores that advocate for improvements in local regulations such that their profits may increase.

The differences between the trade union movement and these other such examples are defined by things such as the Labour Relations Act here in Ontario, but the essence of coming together collectively to work to improve the lot of everyone in the collective group is as much a pillar of the trade union movement as it is in any number of other such examples of collectivization or unionization. When the question of the relevancy of unions is thrown out each Labour Day it is very easy to see through the facade and to see the question for what it is and to realize that the question is the pet of those afraid that workers will come together collectively and ask for education such that they will ask for what we are entitled too; fairness in the workplace and a place in the policy making process of government such government policies work to protect jobs instead of sending them offshore.

Just for the record, the trade union movement is more relevant today than it has been since the very inception of the trade union movement.

Dave Trumble
Grey-Bruce Labour Council