Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Right To Work For Less Coming to Ontario

My operating assumption is that Tim Hudak's "Progressive" Conservative party of Ontario will win the next Ontario election and form the next government.  I hope I'm wrong, but it's certainly the safe bet after events drove McGuinty out of power and Horwath's NDP haven't managed yet to convince voters they're a plausible non-crazy alternative to the PCs.

One depressing certainty of a Hudak administration would be a war on organized labour.  If Republian Governor Snyder can take on Michigan, Hudak can certainly bring some variant of "right to work for less" to Ontario.  Indeed, he has already (months ago) indicated he wants to:
“In many cases union leaders have become so powerful that many employees in effect have two bosses — their actual employer and the people who run their union.”
To correct that, he would like union membership to no longer be mandatory and would outlaw the “forced paycheque contributions” unionized workers make to political causes.
The arguments will be the same anti-union stuff from the US, but also a dollop of one particular anti-union argument that I really want to see die, it's the one that goes like this:
Unions were important back in the days of the robber barons and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, but now we have all these fancy labour laws that protect workers, and unions have served their purpose.
I really did see someone say something almost exactly like that, including the Triangle Shirtwaist reference. 

The first thing to say here is that we never stopped having Triangle Shirtwaist fires, we just simply outsourced them to Bangladesh, and other unregulated labour countries where such events are depressingly common.

Naturally these facilities are almost never directly managed by brand name Western companies, but they all make clothing for them, and I guarantee those companies' representatives have visited.  We're talking about places built without fire stairs, smoke alarms, sprinklers and where "fire drill" is a meaningless phrase.  I realize companies probably don't send health and safety experts to assess these places, but it doesn't take a Fire Marshall to realize the damn building has no fire safety measures whatsoever.  They don't care. 

They never did.  The only thing that ever makes them treat workers like humans and take the necessary steps to protect their health and safety are laws.  These laws were almost to a one, brought about by unions.

What happens when organized labour is beaten?  These laws are repealed.  No right wing leader ever campaigns on repealing the building fire code, but they'll talk in general terms about "burdensome regulations" and invent convoluted arbitrary schemes to gut workplace regulations.  Like Hudak has already done.

I'm not in a union and I never was, but I know it is not white collar people like me who make sure my office has a first aid kid, fire extinguishers and we hold an annual fire escape drill.  These are all "burdensome" regulations on my employer and every other.  They also save lives.  The Westray Mine disaster was really not that long ago.  It can and will happen again the weaker these laws are made (along with a host of other labour abuse ills, long forgotten which reemerge the moment the laws prohibiting them are repealed).

It's cliche, but Hudak is shaping up to make Harris look like a moderate.  Past conservative ideologues always seem like moderates but it might actually be true here.

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