Unions and Politics, Canadian style.

My dad, (a small-c conservative) worked for the (Ontario) provincial government for 20-something years, got out early with a fairly decent pension. He was on strike in the OPSEU strike in 96, and seeing him on a picket line was fairly bizarre. He has voted large L Liberal at times, but it was never a good fit.

Today he recieves in the mail a letter from his union which is of course encouraging NDP support in the federal election.

My dad says “what a load of $#!^. Why do they do that? Why can’t they mind their own business. I think unions should stay out of politics!”

I almost fell out of my chair. Since Im not going to bite the hand that feeds me and since my own life is a little messy right now, (and I promised my Mom to “play nice” with Daddy while Im living there) I just stared at him with my jaw open for a while. Then I closed it, shook my head and said “Well, unions are political.”

My dad isn’t the most educated man, or tolerant man, or politically saavy man I have ever met. But this comment left me astonished. I didnt even know where to start unless I went and got old history text books out of the boxes in their basement.

But then I thought… is there a case for trade unions to be non political? Or support right of center parties? I would say no, but I dont have a lot of Canadian social/labour history in my background, so don’t have ALL the facts. Im interested in what others might think… particularly in the Canadian context, but not limited to it as such.

Well, among other things, the NDP were originally made up of representatives from organized labour.

In the thirties, the NDP were called the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and were primarily a western Canada organization that supported the rights of labour, immigrants, and women.

In the sixties, they joined the Canadian Labour Congress to become the NDP. IMNSHO, that’s also their Golden Age. Tommy Douglas was a staunch Union man, and a firm believer in such vital things as socialized medicine.

Unfortunately, from my exceedingly biased perspective, the NDP betrayed the labourers they represented about oooooooo, fifteen years, maybe twenty years, ago, and have been busy selling them down the river since.

All of the parties sound the same - they’ll tell you ANYTHING they think you’ll want to hear to vote for 'em, and they’ll ALL do exactly as they please in office, regardless of election promises.

Again, from my exceedingly biased perspective, the flaw is inherent in our political system, and is also present in American politics. Folks, if you go back in your history classes, political offices WERE NOT DESIGNED to be held by professional politicians. They were designed to be held by more-or-less ordinary people, who had a life to get back to after serving their country/countrymen for a while. The evolution of a class of professional politicians has led to party-hopping (hey, whatever’ll get me elected…and paid), and the blending of all the parties as they throttle down to the least common denominator. The reason election campaigns are more and more resembling feces-flinging time at the monkey house is because there is getting to be less and less difference on the issues - they are blanding out and homogenizing in order to appeal to the masses.

However, to sum up after all that opinionating (you did ask for that, didn’t you?) and stuff, yep. Labour has a venerable, honourable history in Canadian politics, somewhat left of centre, usually exemplified by the NDP. I fail to see why Labour shouldn’t - aside from the inevitable corruption in some local leaderships, we ARE the common man, and we live paycheck to paycheck, and dammit, capital gains taxes generally mean jack to us but by Og, do NOT mess with our pension plans, our health care, whether or not we have the right to quit abusive jobs, whether or not we have the right to insist on being paid fairly, and whether or not we have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, and prevent others from doing so. And inheritance taxes, from way down here, are simply oppressive taxation.

And I hate all political parties for supporting the rape and plunder of the Employment Insurance fund.

Oh yeah, and our local union says “This is what has come from the International offices, you already got further information, Vote Your Conscience.” With mild leanings toward the NDP, purely out of nostalgia.

IBEW 1574

Unions are political, and probably always will be.

However, what they shouldn’t be allowed to do is use mandatory dues for the purposes of political contribution. It’s doubly bad in a closed shop where the employees have no choice but to join the union. It is simply unconscionable that a conservative who happens to be a nurse should have money taken away from her and given to the NDP because her union thinks that’s a good thing to do.