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LS 2A03E - Union and Politics - November 20.docx

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Labour Studies
Sam Vrankulj

LABOUR STUDIES 2A03E – UNIONS UNION AND POLITICS – November 20, 2013 Union Political Action - Why do unions act politically? - How have unions engaged in political action? - How has this changed over time? Why? - Workers and workplaces impacted by legislation o Employment standards (minimum wage, health & safety, labour relations, etc.) o Social Policies (health, EI, childcare, etc.) o Economic policies (trade agreements, Bank of Canada, etc.) - Strategy to influence government policies though engagement in electoral process and presence in legislature/parliament - Unions committed to extending benefits across society o Workers as citizens and social unionism Two General Approaches - Direct engagement in formal electoral and political process - Extra-parliamentary political activities Different Forms of Political Action - Reflect divisions within the working class about goals and how they should be represented (business vs. social unionism) - Reflects the balance of power between labour/capital/state o Degree of accommodation - Strategic considerations based on current realities o Vary over time - Reformist: Oriented toward reforming current political-economic system - Revolutionary: Oriented toward overthrowing existing political-economic system Forms of Political Actions - Partyism (Reformist) o Strategically support a political party to gain legislative influence o Run labour candidates within traditional parties o AKA “Gomperism”  “support your friends and punish your enemies” o Political allegiance shifts to best choice o Problem is “best choice” is a relative consideration - Labourism (Reformist) o Candidates run as either independents or as part of a political party for workers (labour party) o Early forms highly fragmented and decentralized o Electoral politics favours established parties o Most successful at local and provincial level - Syndicalism (Revolutionary) o Extra-parliamentary and revolutionary in nature  Rejected capitalism and the parliamentary political system o Use direct action at the ‘point of production’ o Organized those workers ignored by craft unions  Organized across industries, unemployed, immigrants, and other marginalized workers o General Strike o IWW-OBU - Communism (Revolutionary)
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