Saturday, November 5, 2016

Just what is going on with Canada's labour movement leadership?

The last few weeks have seen a series of what are seemingly truly perplexing moves and actions by some of the country's most important labour leaders.

Among these are:

  • The Toronto & York Region District Labour Council inviting the Liberal federal Labour Minister to march in a place of pride and prominence at Toronto's Labour Day Parade.
  • The CLC inviting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to speak at their Young Workers Summit just days after his Finance Minister said that young workers need to get used to the 'reality' of precarious work. CLC leader Hassan Yussuff and the CLC both then made statements belittling young workers who protested this talk and Q&A at the summit. 
  • It was revealed that UNIFOR leader Jerry Dias gave a $300 donation to Kellie Leitch's campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party for "personal reasons" despite not just her terrible views regarding labour and union rights but also the fact that her campaign is centred around racist dog-whistle style policies relating to immigration and being 'Canadian'
  • It was revealed that OPSEU hired a 'union avoidance' lawyer whose slogan was “At Vella Labour Law we fight unions hard. We fight to win.” to combat the union representing its own internal workers! 
Each and every one of these actions are awful and reprehensible in their own right, though the final one -- coming especially as it does from the union led by the pseudo-sanctimonious Warren 'Smokey' Thomas whose highlights include an outrageous attack on left-wing "white wine swilling elitists" during the 2014 provincial election and a de facto endorsement of Tim Hudak over Kathleen Wynne for Premier -- takes hypocrisy to a new level. 

Hopefully Smokey was cracking a good old-fashioned crappy Bud as his union called a management lawyer to try to attack its own workers who are now taking legal action over allegations of:
“bullying,” “intimidation,” “retaliation,” “threats,” “surveillance,” unjustified suspensions, firings, disciplinary actions and investigations intended to harass members, after 12 staff were suspended and four terminated in the wake of contract negotiations last summer.
I think Smokey's days of lecturing anyone about anything related to worker's rights or 'elitism' can be officially said to be at an end.

What connects all of these incidents and leaders, however, is an obvious detachment from the principles they allege to support -- such as living wages or a serious restructuring of the economy --and their actual actions.

There is nothing new about this. It becomes apparent in almost all elections on every level.

That same Toronto & York District Labour Council who invited the Liberal minister, for example, released a meaningless municipal political platform in Toronto in 2014 that was not worth the paper it was printed on as they went on to endorse a series of candidates who were often liberals and none of whom actually seriously committed to the platform in anyway.

In fact, everyone of the candidates they endorsed who subsequently got elected voted for right-wing Mayor John Tory's first budget! 

One of their endorsements for council, Shelley Carroll, is now getting ready to run for the profoundly corrupt and anti-labour Liberal government in Ontario. John Cartwright, the council's leader, is very comfortable with a liberal political agenda and has proven this time and again, regardless of what other campaigns and policies he and the council purport to support.

The juxtaposition of alleged principle with craven practice really does seem to both flow from a desire to preserve personal positions of power while putting the very narrow interests of specific and already existing union members ahead of the broader agenda for workers and those living in poverty that Canadian labour claims to advocate for.

It is a contradiction that -- along with the often vicious infighting among all of these leaders -- is coming into sharp focus and that deeply undermines the overall struggle for a real worker's rights agenda and politics.

See also: The CLC and the Liberals - Pandering to power

See also: 42-2: John Tory, Toronto City Council and the austerity consensus


  1. Good article. Thank you Michael.

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  3. And your so-called "left Chapter" comments were not helpful to Canada's NDP election in 2015- now we have those liberals in power. Yep a liberal majority government all over the stupid ridiculous discussion ( your chapter's view of being principled) over a balanced budget. Calling Trudeau's proposed deficit spending left of the NDP was asinine. Harper had deficits for 8 of the 9 years he was in government- and just how left was he? You can't see beyond your left eye either- so why should you be judge and jury what is the definition of being left?

    1. LOL! The NDP did not run on a left economic platform and thereby got outflanked by a Bay St. Liberal Party on stimulus spending. That is not my fault, it is the fault of the "brain trust" that ran the NDP campaign.
      I am not here to be 'helpful' to a faux social democratic party full of careerists that deserved to lose.
      I have also been a very harsh critic of the Liberals both before, during and after the election, far harsher a critic than I was of the NDP.
      Your comment is simply empty partisanship.

  4. The Working class has to battle two fronts. The first one is the infestation of liberals and outright right wingers that have taken over the Unions. The second is the ruling class itself.

    On the first note the Unions are holding down the workers struggles. Workers have to rebuild from the ground up. Starting with work place rank and file organizations. They have to fight the Unions and get rid of them as they are to corrupted.

    On the second , it's the same old adage. Build a revolutionary party.

  5. Wait, can't this guy be "primaried"? Is he in that kind of position? Seems like a grumpy, spiteful monster. Gotta be somebody better than him in that whole organization.