Labour & Unions
Labour, Corporate Power and Politics in Canada
Over the past decade, Canadians have experienced wild economic swings: an economic boom followed by massive layoffs in traditional industries and a wrenching economic crisis. What have these changes meant for Canadian workers? Bad jobs? Weaker unions? Worsening health? If so, why?
Boom, Bust, and Crisis addresses these questions by surveying how work has changed across Canada, from the auto and steel industries of Ontario, to the tar sands of Northern Alberta and First Nations casinos in Saskatchewan. This edited collection explains the massive lay-offs in unionized manufacturing industries, the expansion of low-wage work and the rise of increasingly aggressive employers by critically examining Canada’s political economy and assessing the impact of government policy and labour market deregulation on Canada’s workers. The book also explores the recent policy changes to employment standards and health and safety protection in the context of neoliberal globalization. Written by leading political scientists, sociologists and journalists in concise, accessible language, this volume provides a rich and vibrant assessment of why some businesses have boomed while others have failed and why, through it all, Canadian workers have paid the price.
Though the Canadian labour movement’s postwar political, economic and social achievements may have seemed like irrevocable contributions to human progress, they have proven to be anything but. Since the mid-1970s, labour’s political influence and capacity to defend, let alone extend, these gains has been seriously undermined by the strategies of both capitalist interests and the neoliberal state. Electoral de-alignment and the decline of class-based voting, bursts of unsustained extra-parliamentary militancy and a general lack of influence on state ac- tors and policy outcomes all signal that the labour movement is in crisis. Despite much experimentation in an attempt to regain political clout, labour continues to experience deep frustration and stagnation. As such, the labour movement’s future political capacities are in question, and the need for critical appraisal is urgent. Understanding how and why workers were able to exert collective power in the postwar era, how they lost it and how they might re-establish it is the central concern of Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada.
Remaking the Promise of Oil
On February 15, 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland taking the entire crew of eighty-four men – including the author’s brother – down with it. It was the worst sea disaster in Canada since the Second World War, but the memory of this event gradually faded into a sad story about a bad storm – relegated to the “Extreme Weather” section of the CBC archives. Susan Dodd resurrects this disaster from the realm of “history” and maps the socio-political processes of its aftermath, when power, money and collective hopes for the future revised the story of corporate indifference and betrayal of public trust into a “lesson learned” by an heroic industry advancing technology in the face of a brutal environment. This book is a navigational resource for other disaster aftermaths, including that of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, and a call for vigilant government regulation of industry in all its forms.
Reinventing the Workers’ Movement
Does Canada have a working-class movement? Though many of us think of ourselves as middle class, most of us are, in fact, working class: we work for a wage. And though many of us are members of unions – the most significant organizations of the working-class movement in Canada – most people do not understand themselves to be part of this movement. Canadian Labour in Crisis asks why this is so. Through an analysis of the contemporary Canadian working-class movement and its historical development, David Camfield offers an explanation for its current state and argues that reform within the movement is not enough. From the structure of organizations to their activities and even the guiding ideology, Camfield contends that the movement needs a radical reinvention – and offers us a new way forward in reaching this goal.
Reshaping Steel Work
In the 1980s, following decades of booming business, the global steel industry went into a precipitous decline, which necessitated significant restructuring. Management demanded workers’ increased participation in evermore temporary and insecure labour. Engaging the workers at the flagship Stelco plant in Hamilton, the authors document new management strategies and the responses of unionized workforces to them. These investigations provide valuable insights into the dramatic changes occurring within the Canadian steel industry.
National and International Perspectives
This book is a survey of the global trajectory of labour history, written by labour historians of international repute who are experts in the labour history of particular countries. Considering the labour histories of a number of countries, these essays examine early labour history, the 1960s, the mid-twentieth century, institutional contexts, links to the labour movement and conceptions of class, gender, ethnicity, culture, community and power. The authors analyze key debates, question dominant paradigms, acknowledge minority critiques and consider future directions. Histories of Labour will be of interest to historians, students of labour studies, and anyone interested in social and political protest, relations between employers and the state and post-structuralism.
The Assault on Working People since 1970
“If you’re in my way I’m walking.” This arrogant statement by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on the occasion of his physical altercation with a protester in Hull, Quebec in the mid-1990s symbolizes the spirit of the relentless drive of capital to rewrite the historical compromise reached with working people after World War II. This early post-war compromise–sometimes referred to as the Fordist Compact–was associated with improving wages and rising living standards for working people. But in recent decades those achievements of the working class are being deliberately rolled back.
Workman surveys many features of this experience: changing public perceptions of working life, the deregulation of labour law, the decline in unionization rates, the eclipse of union militancy, the stagnation of real wages, the disproportionate absorption of women into the low-wage sphere and the dismantling of social policy. He demonstrates the unravelling of the post-war compact and its replacement with a far more ex-ploitative relationship between capital and labour. He also points to the decline of the Canadian left and its inability to counter the capitalist onslaught effectively. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be hopeful. Workman calls for a rebuilding of the left through the restoration of left culture. To do this he says that the left must “quit politics,” work to promote the collective memory of working-class achievements, create venues to listen to working people in today’s economy, reject nationalism outright and encourage the labour movement to exploit its disruptive capacity. This revitalized left will form the basis of a deepening social critique, the political lessons of which will prove to be invaluable for working people in the long run.
A Study in the Politics of Labour
Of political parties claiming socialism to be their aim, the Labour Party has always been one of the most dogmatic–not about socialism, but about the parliamentary system. This is not simply to say that the Labour Party has never been a party of revolution: such parties have normally been quite willing to use the opportu-nities the parliamentary system offered as one means of furthering their aims. It is rather that the leaders of the Labour Party have always rejected any kind of political action which fell, or which appeared to them to fall, outside the framework and conventions of the parliamentary system. The Labour Party has been a party deeply imbued by parliamentarism. And in this respect, there is no distinction to be made between Labour’s political and its industrial leaders. Both have been equally determined that the Labour Party should not stray from the narrow path of parliamentary politics.
The Labour Party remains, in practice, what it has always been–a party of modest social reform in a capital-ist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted.
“One of the seminal texts of the British New Left.” –Leo Panitch
John St. Amand – A Biography
Few mature men and women choose to abandon secure employment with handsome health and retirement benefits for a cause and an uncertain future. This biographical memoir is about a man who did just this, abandoning a promising career as a sociologist at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, for the turbulent life of union organizer in Nova Scotia.
In one of his first organizing campaigns, John St. Amand crisscrossed industrial Cape Breton signing up workers to the new Canadian Miner’s Union and became known as “the guy in the green truck.” Archie Kennedy, a miner who worked with John, said, “It is difficult for ‘mainlanders’ to penetrate the culture of Cape Breton and to be accepted by Cape Bretoners as one of their own. John St. Amand did exactly that.” He had a great ability to communicate with people.
St. Amand’s life became a testament to those who choose to advance the cause of the underdog in the hope of building a better society for us all. This book is a tribute to a courageous fighter who worked tirelessly to bring hope and justice to those most oppressed and neglected in our society. His courage, daring, incorrigible sense of mischief and his dedication to working men and women all combined to banish any thought of defeat in the face of lost campaigns.
Globalization, Labour and Resistance in Sudbury
Sudbury is the largest hardrock mining centre in North America and among the largest in the world. Given the enormous mineral wealth that exists in the Sudbury Basin, one might think that prosperity would abound and that cultural, educational, health and social-welfare institutions would be of the highest order, existing within a well-maintained and attractive physical infrastructure. But this is not the Sudbury that people know. This book explores key aspects of Sudbury’s economic, health and social conditions. It analyzes how globalization and corporate power in a hinterland mining town have impacted on working people, how and why resistance has emerged and why alternative directions are needed. While Sudbury is the focus of this book, the Sudbury experience offers important lessons for other mining and resource communities.