Union vs. Corporate Influence in Politics

Written by Hank on . Posted in Unions

With the Ontario election going on, there has been a lot of debate about whether unions should be allowed to pay for political advertising using their members’ dues money. Terrance Oakey, of Merit Contractors Association, an employer association, recently wrote and article in the Huffington Post decrying union spending on political ads. While I understand his concern, I disagree with much of what he said, because he only focuses on one side of the political fence.

I have spent a great deal of time working with governments of all stripes on behalf of my members regarding specific workplace concerns and offering constructive solutions. Who do I typically see coming out of the door as I am going in? None other than corporate lobbyists (such as Merit).

Like some unions’ lobbying efforts—see the Working Families Coalition, for example—many of these corporate lobbyists not only attempt to get the government of the day to see it their way, they also spend a great deal of time and money trying to directly influence the political process. I am concerned about the influence of big money on elections—no matter which side of the political fence it comes from.

Message to Unions: Embrace Change or Become Obsolete

Written by Hank on . Posted in Labour relations, Unions

It was once said that there are only two certainties in life—death and taxes. We might add a third—change. When I started as a representative, collective agreements were printed by a Gestetner machine and spelling mistakes were corrected with nail polish. Nothing stays the same, however, and change is inevitable in our smartphone and Ipad world.

Unions used to be agents of change, but today many people consider them to be as relevant as the Gestetner. In the first seven decades of the 20th century, unions pushed hard for pensions, unemployment insurance, WSIB, pay equity, and the rights of the most vulnerable. They got them. Today, the economy is bogged down and the pressures for cut backs and structural change are taking place. Most unions haven’t adapted. Instead of positioning themselves at the front of the train, they have moved to the caboose and are looking backward. They wait for management or government to act so they can react. They cling to past achievements instead of looking to the present and future.

Ontario Public-Sector Wage Freeze Needs to Be Qualified

Written by Hank on . Posted in Health care, Labour relations

Tim Hudak is vowing to freeze the wages of all public sector workers if the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party is elected. But not all public workers make six-figure salaries and enjoy long vacations and great pensions. Some make just over minimum wage, and like many Ontarians, have difficulty making ends meet at the end of each month.

Further, some of our public-sector workers, employees in our long term care homes in particular, have already had their wages frozen for two years as part of the current round of public-sector wage austerity. Public workers at the lower end of the wage spectrum and workers who have already sacrificed to help the province balance the books should not be penalized by wage freezes again.

An across-the-board wage freeze may make for a good sound bite, but the impact on workers is devastating. Any policies targeting public-sector wages need to be balanced and should not demonize public employees.

Our public workers are taxpayers, too, and, like everyone else, want to see our province’s financial health improve. CLAC is calling on all political leaders to work with public workers and unions to find real and fair solutions to the province’s financial woes.

CLAC – Union with a Plus

Written by Hank on . Posted in Labour relations, Unions

CLAC’s historic values are a central reason why we are more than just an ordinary union. We look at the world and see things that are broken and we actually try to fix them, always with an eye on how things should or could be. That’s why we are constantly driven to look for new and better ways to do things, trying to reform and transform the field of labour relations. That’s why we are never satisfied with the comfortable status quo.

CLAC focuses on the dignity of the individual and on what unites us as human beings. When we choose cooperation over conflict, it’s not because we are afraid of it. It’s because that’s ideally the way it’s supposed to be. We don’t always get there, but that has to be the goal.

We choose hope over despair, happiness over sadness, and seek solutions over simply complaining. When things work well, then everything is aligned as it should be and we have done our job.

As union leaders, we understand that we are here to serve, not to be served, and that we are not here for ourselves. CLAC tries to treat our members as we would like to be treated ourselves; we do not intimidate or control others to serve our goal. CLAC’s focus on service does not come in a vacuum and ultimately, we will be judged by our members on what we do, not on what we say.

That’s the CLAC difference.

Wage Freeze, Huh?

Written by Hank on . Posted in Health care

Ontario is in bad shape, and it’s not getting better. With a population of 13,538,000, we now have a public debt of $267.5 billion, or $20,166 per citizen. Government and opposition leaders (the people who helped get us into this mess) use this to justify imposing a wage freeze on the lowest-paid workers in the public sector. Yet they don’t seem to impose restraint on themselves or others making top dollar.

In 2007, provincial politicians gave themselves a 28 percent wage increase. In 2010, shortly after the 2008 recession, CLAC met with provincial officials to discuss the two-year freeze that the government requested the healthcare sector take. We couldn’t agree to the proposal because we had seen it all before in at least four previous rounds of wage restraint. At that time, I warned the provincial officials that government itself is always the worst offender in terms of breaking any legislated restraint and that they should look internally before they asked our members for nickel. Little did I know how right I would be.

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