There’s no doubt that low-income people, especially children and their parents, are better off because of social unionism’s strong tradition in Canada. At all levels,unions take the lead in pressing for public policies such as decent minimum wages, fair labour practices and progressive public services that support families when they are in the labour force and when they are not.
We are at a socio-economic and ecological crossroads with governments at every level pushing an austerity agenda. Yet, in this moment of financial, economic, social, and environmental crisis, with the socio-economic and ecological shocks being felt in communities, the last and most enduring institution that represents the interest of workers – the labour union – is under threat from powerful vested interests.
Posted by Tzeporah Berman et Steven Guilbeault · April 24, 2013 9:26 PM
There was a time when you wouldn’t walk into the local union hall wearing your organic cotton “Save the Whales” t-shirt, and also when you probably wouldn’t take part in the local Earth Day parade wearing a hard hat and well-worn safety boots. But fashions change and so do perceptions. Union members and environmentalists have discovered they have much more in common than anyone once thought.
Like with any relationship, the road from mutual mistrust to grudging acceptance to warm embrace has had its share of potholes. But what we have come to recognize is that our planet needs us – and not us and them.
Sadly, in many ways nothing more powerfully and obviously underscores the critically important role that trade unions and trade unionists play in human rights struggles - around the world - than the grave abuses they so frequently experience simply because they stand up for the rights of workers or lead and take part in important social movements addressing wider human rights concerns.
“Union Communities, Healthy Communities” sets out the direct relationship between healthy rates of unionization and lower rates of income inequality. This is a critical factor to discuss in light of the current developing attack on unions in Canada. At a time when many provinces have been starting to address issues of poverty reduction, children's benefits and welfare reform; what little progress we are making will be quickly undone if "right to work" measures gain ground. Unions are not only a key force in mitigating income inequality but also in fighting against the growing trend to precarious employment -- contract, part time, no benefits etc. – that is multiplying the numbers of Canadians who rank among the working poor.