rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Inter-generational theft top issue at labour convention

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Las Vegas in August is hot -- as in its temperature, a ripping 40 degrees outside, as 4,000 or so delegates assembled here this week for an international convention of the United Steelworkers. My own union is an affiliated partner, so a few from our bunch joined this convention as observers and guests.

The USW is one of Canada's untold success stories. Specifically, the story of the prominent role played in that international (Canada-U.S.) union by its president, Leo Gerard of Sudbury.

Mr. Gerard is a relentless defender of industrial and other workers. He has led the USW into numerous international alliances, to try and match globalized employers with a globalized union. He has waged a particularly determined campaign in defence of Mexico's miners and steelworkers union, which confronted a politically well-connected set of mine owners after a disgraceful (and fatal) industrial accident, and were rewarded by a determined Mexican government campaign to intimidate and jail its leaders. Mexican union leader Napoleon Gomez had to flee the country in the face of this campaign, and has received sanctuary in Canada.

Mr. Gerard is no stranger at the White House. He put on a pretty good show this week for his delegates, on the theme "stand up, fight back".

There was, however, a more telling highlight at this convention, I think. It came when a committee of young emerging union leaders were introduced at the podium, and a resolution was put forward calling for a commitment to develop the next generation of leaders.

This drew a parade of speakers to microphones across the cavernous meeting hall, each to tell stories about the brutal working and bargaining environments they were facing back home. Again and again, in almost every conceivable regional accent across North America (Louisiana, Quebec, New Jersey, B.C., Chicago, etc.) speakers noted that employers were bargaining, mercilessly and relentlessly, to strip pay, health coverage (a big issue in the United States) and pensions from new -- read "young" -- workers. It's creating two-tier workplaces, and gross inequities aimed squarely at young workers entering the workplace.

This was frank talk about another aspect of the great inter-generational theft being implemented in the United States and across the industrial world in recent years. Mounting public debt to pay for tax cuts for rich people being the central element.

Delegates urged young workers to step up to the defence of their rights. "Stand up, fight back." A daunting challenge, in this environment. But as Mr. Gerard said at the convention in a familiar quote: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"

This article was first published in the Globe and Mail.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.