Joyce Arthur
When a government protects workers by criminalizing them

| March 7, 2014
Photo: Justin Scott Campbell/flickr

Imagine for a moment, if the debate over prostitution laws was aimed at other types of workers...

In a bold move aimed at protecting workers from exploitation while on the job, the government today passed a new law that criminalizes most employers and customers. The law addresses the void left by the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2013, when it struck down laws that it said prevented workers from taking safety measures to protect themselves from abusive customers, but which the government said were designed to prevent people from working, period.

"Our government is concerned about the significant harms that flow from being compelled to work for a living," said Law and Order Minister Punter MacCunny at a press conference to announce the new law, which was passed without any Parliamentary debate. "Working is harmful to vulnerable individuals, particularly women, who should be home having babies."

The most dangerous jobs in Canada are believed to be in the male-dominated industries of logging, fisheries and construction, but reliable data is unavailable due to the government's ongoing "Bonfirefest" program targeting science libraries. "We don't need evidence to know that most jobs pose unacceptable risks to workers," insisted MacCunny. "Every day, workers are compelled to do disgusting or dangerous things for money, like scrubbing toilets or conducting rigorous peer-reviewed studies. This economic exploitation must end."

MacCunny pointed out that 95 per cent of people hate their jobs and want out, according to a new government-commissioned study by the Fundamentalist United Church of Canada (FUCC). Pastor Dan Ho of FUCC said he surveyed about 50 people in Winnipeg, mostly cashiers at Tim Hortons. "Canadians who've been innocently enjoying their coffee and Timbits every morning need to know that all the workers' smiles are forced," warned Pastor Ho, discreetly whisking a crumb from his beard.

Police welcomed the new law, which gives them sweeping new enforcement powers to target the huge increase in organized crime. According to Det. Sgt. Billy Clubber, head of the RCMP's new Slave Save Squad, "We'll be cracking down on slavery rings, basically any place where workers are bribed with wages to provide services for pimps and johns." The law now designates employers and customers as "pimps" and "johns," respectively.

The squad will be recruiting 10,000 new officers to conduct raids of exploitive workplaces across the country. "The price tag is ginormous, but it's worth it to rescue victims," exulted Clubber. "After breaking down doors and waving our guns around, it's gratifying to be able to pacify terrified slaves by tasering them. Then they'll be taken to special rehabilitation centres, where they'll have a chance to learn honest skills such as making licence plates."

However, to reduce program costs, Clubber said that foreign-looking workers will be immediately deported, while a range of pimps and johns will be exempt from the new law, including the top 1 per cent, elected officials, law enforcement, celebrities, CEOs, devout Christians, and all family and friends of the aforementioned.

To fund the new initiative, the government has diverted $1.2 billion from the Maternal and Child Health program for developing countries. That initiative was abruptly cancelled last year after the government discovered it would have to spend some of the money on birth control pills. Further controversy arose at the time when it was revealed that one of the PMO's top advisers was right-wing talk show host Rash Bimbough, who announced on air that "We're not paying for slutty sluts to have sex!"

Member of Parliament Jilly Schmut has been advocating the criminalization of customers for years, and strongly supports the new law. "I am convinced that the most effective route to tackling wage slavery is to end demand for goods and services by targeting buyers." Schmut also had harsh words for those who traffic hapless workers to different branches or affiliates of the same company, coercing them via promotions and raises, while the traffickers reap huge profits from the slaves' advanced servitude. "These predators are dehumanizing individuals by reducing them to a commodity to be bought and sold," fumed Schmut.

Some wage slaves protested the move to criminalize their customers, claiming it would push them into an underground economy where they would be even more at risk of exploitation and harm. Others insisted that they were not slaves at all, and that they had freely chosen their work and even enjoy it. However, wage slave expert Malicia Fibberly dismissed these anonymous claims, explaining that working 9 to 5 is inherently demeaning and dangerous and must be abolished. "It's annoying to come across people who've been brainwashed into believing they're empowered by their work," complained Fibberly. "That syndrome is called 'false consciousness.'" While Fibberly conceded that some workers probably did enter their profession willingly, she cautioned that "Such people are not representative, and are part of a small, privileged elite. Don't listen to them!"

Law and Order Minister MacCunny agreed, and said the government had to dismiss the voices of workers during the public debate in the lead-up to the new law. "We heard rumours that many workers were inexplicably speaking out against the proposed law during our public consultation process. However, experts advised us that most slavery victims suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, so we plugged our ears."

When questioned further, MacCunny admitted that the government had been "completely overwhelmed" with the over 30,000 online responses it received from the public on possible legal solutions to the wage slavery crisis, only one month before the new law was passed. "Luckily, we had already made up our minds to pass the new law, so we didn't have to bother reading the comments. That also saved a lot of taxpayer money, making it a win-win for everybody!" he declared, pumping his fist in the air.

He also offered assurances that the comment database would never be made available to researchers or the public because "it's now in the same place as the Gun Registry."

MacCunny concluded his comments on a celebratory note. "Let freedom ring! Canadians can now stay home and have babies, and never be exploited by working for a living again."

Meanwhile, the government has promised to explore ways to address the rising incidence of poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, violence, exploitation, and social unrest, and plans to open another public consultation soon.

Joyce Arthur is a founding member of FIRST, a national feminist sex worker advocacy organization based in Vancouver that lobbies for the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada. She works as a technical writer and pro-choice activist.

Photo: Justin Scott Campbell/flickr


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