Trade Unions Still Vital Today


Vigilance required to keep gains earned by labour unions, says letter writer

Trade Unions Still Vital Today

As published in the Hill Times: 9 September 2020

Trade union critics often claim that improved human rights and labor legislation now provide all the protection that working people need. This soothing news may surprise minimum wage and gig economy workers whose precarious labor has achieved higher visibility due to Covid.

Most of the gains in wages, safer working conditions and benefits have resulted from the tireless efforts of trade unionists in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Vigilance is required to maintain these gains which are a favorite target of austerity advocates who also believe that the concentrated wealth is somehow beneficial to society.

Out of context references to Adam Smith’s invisible hand (of the market) ignore the role of human frailty and greed in the current climate of lowered public expectations and anti-government rhetoric. Anti-union sentiment among those who freely chose the benefits of non-union employment is fueled mainly by misconceptions generated by certain think tanks, corporate pundits and academics determined to discredit the social programs that still differentiate Canada from its individualistic neighbor.

Widespread voter apathy stems from the growing belief that government serves working people only if their interests coincide with the needs of the extremely wealthy. This apathy expresses itself in peoples’ isolating and passive fascination with celebrity worship, professional sport, reality television and reflexive consumerism. The alternative to such isolating practices is communal engagement and regular participation in various forms of social activism.