Is there any reason to think strikes and the unions which call them will ever reacquire the aura of romance and moral legitimacy they once had? They come and go without glamour. Ontario just experienced another batch of teachers' strikes which were unpopular and duly legislated back. But it could be otherwise.
All eyes have been on Alberta this week, where Rachel Notley's NDP are busy getting ready to show the rest of Canada what progress without austerity can look like.
While Notley's sweeping victory has many of us excited and full of hope, this week's labour roundup proves that we've still got our work cut out for us.
Sorry to be such a downer, but it's time to keep mobilizing.
Here we go!
In addition to all this great news, you should know that this is World Health Workers Week! That means that if you see your doctor, nurse, physical therapist, hospital cleaner, security guard, occupational therapist -- whatever their position -- maybe don't forget to smile and wave and say "Thank you for keeping me alive!"
Here are some of the big stories in Canadian Labour this week:
As its name suggests, United Steelworkers (USW) once represented the legions of steel workers across North America. But as jobs in the steel industry moved to far flung corners of the world, USW began to change, integrating new job sectors into a union that now has over 800,000 members worldwide.
Ken Neumann is the Canadian national director of USW, representing over 200,000 Canadian workers. He's been a member of USW since the late seventies. Labour beat reporter H.G. Watson spoke to him about their potential merger with the Telecommunications Workers Union, and the challenges facing labour today. This is a condensed and edited version of their conversation.
Hundreds of New York City fast-food workers, fed up with poverty wages and abusive working conditions, walked off the job this Thursday, demanding minimum pay of $15 an hour and the right to organize and collectively bargain without fear of retaliation. The strike echoes a similar walkout that took place in the city last November and exemplifies how low-wage non-unionized workers across the U.S. are organizing to fight back against exploitation.
The B.C. Liberal government is poised, once again, to violate the legal rights of workers, this time with Bill 22, which, if it becomes law, will prohibit teachers from striking and limit their collective bargaining rights.
In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government had violated the Canadian Charter by imposing legislative restrictions on the rights of health workers to bargain collectively. In April 2011, the British Columbia Supreme Court followed that decision to rule that legislation concerning teachers was unconstitutional, and thereby invalid, because it prohibited bargaining on class size, class composition and the ratios of teachers to students.
Tens of thousands of students are on the streets protesting moves by the Québec Liberal government to inflate post-secondary tuition fees by $1,625 in the next five years. A serious grassroots battle is underway as students hold major street protests, sit-ins, and direct actions.
Currently, over 65,000 students in Québec are on an unlimited general strike under the banner Ensemble, bloquons la hausse/Stop the Hike. Over a dozen additional student associations and unions are voting in the coming days whether to join the quickly expanding protest movement, now at the centre of political debate across the province.