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LABR 1F90: The Politics of Labour and Labour Relations

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Brock University
Labour Studies
Larry Savage

WHY IS LABOUR POLITICS IMPORTANT? - Historically unions have been at the fore front playing a key role in the struggles for political and social progress inlacing expansion of political rights, the creation of the welfare state. Things like employment equity, etc. - The unions have played an important role in gaining these benefits - There is a parliamentary route through elections, and lobbying. - There is the extra-parliamentary - the working class or the labour movement that pushed government policy in a certain direction PARLIAMENTARY POLITICAL ACTION - Unions mobilize around elections and lobbying - Goal: to influence the legislative agenda by changing legislators or their minds - Important because of the context. Whatever unions can win at the bargaining table, they can loose at the ballot box. Ex - Bill 115 - Complicated by the fact that most unions are in the public sector and the government is the boss. - Potential: - - to shape the legislative agenda - EX. Anti-discrimination laws, wiping out child labour, raising minimum wage - Cons: - - Legislators dont always follow through - Business interests constrain even labour-friendly governments - Even in cases where unions are able to elect candidates or parties that have the same goals - they still have to face the broader political and economic. - Some workers historically reluctant to engage in partisan politics - Some people believe that voting is a private matter OVERVIEW OF PARTY-UNION RELATIONS IN CANADA - The NDP is the party most closely identified with unions in Canada - Strategic voting - unions united in who they do not want to see elected. Ex. Conservative, because of their strong ties to the business community and their strong dislike against the labour movement. So in some cases unions would encourage their members to vote Liberals to block the conservatives. - Larry has done research on this and has found it doesnt really work. - Very few unions back Conservative candidates - In Quebec, organized labour is most closely aligned with separatist parties, although no formal links exist. Mostly, when we see Quebec emerging in the separatist movement in the 1960, the economic makeup was such that the capitalist class came from anglophone background, and the workforce was primarily working class and francophone. This created tensions. It politically aligned people in certain ways. UNIONS AND ELECTORAL POLITICS - NDP started out as New Party - Economics and politics do affect each other. - Labour council does endorse the NDP NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY - Founded in 1961as a social democratic labour party through a partnership between the socialist Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and the Canadian Labour Congress - The NDP is formally tied to the labour movement through direct local affiliations at the provincial level (there are some exceptions) - Positions exist within the party structure that are specifically reserved for organized labour - Union affiliates are given 25% of the leadership selection vote in some provinces - they have a special group of votes that are reserved to elect the parties. - Individual union locals can vote to join the party - Arguably all of these things are on their way out the door. Larry suggests 10 years, we wont be seeing any affiliations - Never won power federally - However, is regarded as the most influential party in Canada to have never gained power. Minority -
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