Sunday, 30 December 2007

Unions Passing Resolutions to Honor, Assist Folksinger/Storyteller Bruce "Utah" Phillips

Photo courtesy: www.utahphillips.org

I recently received the e-mail appeal below. I've decided to post it in it's entirety.
Unions Passing Resolutions to Honor, Assist Folksinger/Storyteller Bruce"Utah"Phillips
.
The great folksinger and storyteller Utah Phillips (www.utahphillips.org/) has had to retire from performing due to chronic and serious heart problems that have plagued him for years. In recognition of his great love for and work on behalf of the union movement and working people of the United States, several union locals have passed resolutions honoring Phillips and attaching donations for his "retirement fund."
.
Unable to travel or stand the rigors of performing a two-hour concert, Phillips has seen his main source of income vanish just when his medical problems are demanding more money for treatment and medications.
.
In response, Local 1180 of the Communications Workers of America (NYC), and both the Detroit and the James Connolly (Upstate New York) Branches of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have recently passed the following resolution:
.
Bruce "Utah" Phillips is a truly unique American treasure. Not just a great folk song writer and interpreter, not just a great storyteller, Utah has preserved and presented the history of our nation's working people and union movement for audiences throughout the world. His recorded work keeps these songs and stories alive. He has spoken up against the injustices of boss-dominated capitalism and worked for peace and justice for more than 40 years. Now Utah finds himself unable to continue performing due to severe heart problems. We wish to honor and recognize his great talent, spirit and love for the working people and the union movement of the United States.
.
Therefore, we move to pass this resolution in gratitude for all he has done and will continue to do in his work and life. We also wish to contribute $____ to Utah Phillips in appreciation and in solidarity as he and his wife, Joanna Robinson, deal with his health and the loss of his ability to work.
.
This news is being released with the hope that other unions, anti-war and labor-affiliated organizations will respond in kind by passing this or similar resolutions in appreciation for all Utah Phillips has done for the cause of unions and peace.
.
Another way that organizations and individuals can help is by purchasing some or all of Utah's vast catalog of songs and stories. All of his CDs and more information are available at his website, www.utahphillips.org/, and Utah has begun posting podcasts up there that you can download and listen to!
.
You can also order his CDs online (credit card sales) through, www.cdbaby.com/, but be advised that prices are cheaper and more of that money will go into Utah's hands if you order directly from him. More info on his website.
.
Here's the address for CD orders and to send a donation:
.
U. Utah Phillips
No Guff Records
P.O. Box 1235
Nevada City, CA
95959
(530) 265-2476
.
Utah has given so much of himself to the labor and peace movements. It is great news that some unions and many have chosen to give something back to him, to allow him and his wife, Joanna Robinson, to rest easy, work on his long-term health, and not have to worry about where money will come for the medicine and bills he has to pay.
.
Please forward and post this release widely!
.
In Solidarity, George Mann
Contact: George Mann
email: georgeandjulius@att.net
phone: 212-923-6372

Saturday, 29 December 2007

CCPA Releases New Report on Free Trade

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has just released a new report on Free Trade, in advance of the 20th anniversary of the agreement signed on January 2, 1988.

See the accompanying News Release entitled: Free trade has failed to live up to its promises—study

The full report is entitled: 20 Years Later: Has Free Trade Delivered on its Promise? (in Adobe PDF format)

Excerpt from News Release:
"OTTAWA— Twenty years after Canada signed the Free Trade Agreement its biggest boosters have grown wealthier but promises of better jobs and rising living standards fell short, says a study released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was signed on January 2, 1988. The study examines what’s happened since: It takes a sample of 41 Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) member companies – the leading supporter of free trade – and finds they shrank their workforce by 19.6% while their revenues grew by 127%."

Friday, 28 December 2007

Breaking the chain: The antitrust case against Wal-Mart

I was recently reminded of a great article that appeared in the July 2006 edition of Harper's Magazine entitled: "Breaking the chain: The antitrust case against Wal-Mart" by Barry C. Lynn.

It's a fascinating piece that talks about the unbelievable power this huge corporation wields at all levels. Well worth the read.

A conversation with the premier, Brad Wall

The Friday, December 28, 2007 issue of the Regina Leader-Post carries a year-end interview with new Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall.
"In an interview with James Wood, who covers the provincial scene for the Saskatchewan News Network, Wall talked about the learning curve of his early days in power and what the new year has in store." Read more ...

Role of trade unions still misunderstood by general public

Here's an interesting article by John Clarke for the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record.
"According to the latest opinion poll on the subject, the role of trade unions in the civil society is as much misunderstood as ever by the great unwashed.

Unions themselves don’t seem much the wiser, concentrating as they do so heavily on collective bargaining."
Read more ......

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

December 27, 2007
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at the end of a campaign rally near the capital, Islamabad.

Coverage:
New York Times
truthout.org
Regina Leader-Post
CBC

(Photo: Tariq Mahmood / AFP)

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard

"The Story of Stuff With Annie Leonard" is an engaging new short film that explains the "materials economy" in 20 fun-filled minutes. Produced by Free Range Studios, which developed "The Meatrix" - an animated short about factory farming that ranks among the cleverest uses of Internet technologies to deliver a politically progressive message - The Story of Stuff features Annie Leonard, amusing graphics, lots of humor, and a complicated analysis presented in an easy-to-understand conversational tone."
Watch the teaser video below. You can view entire 20 minute video at: www.storyofstuff.com.

Paul Potts - Britians Got Talent

In a word - Phenomenal!



Check out his web-site: paulpottsuk.com

Monday, 24 December 2007

Why Card Majority can be more democratic than “so-called” Secret Ballot

(Remember, in Canada, 5 out of 11 jurisdictions use mandatory secret ballot systems and 6 out of 11 use card majority systems for union certification)

Of those jurisdictions in Canada that use the mandatory secret ballot system for union certification, most require 50% plus 1 of “those voting” as the threshold for majority support. They normally set quorum at 50% plus 1 of “total eligible voters” who must vote in order for the vote to be accepted.

So, if 50% plus 1 voters of 50% plus 1 of total eligible voters cast a ballot in support of a union, the workplace can be certified with just marginally over 25% support of the total eligible voters (let’s say 26% for the sake of the argument).

Put another way, you have 100 employees. In order for a secret ballot vote to be legal, at least 51 of them must vote. And in order to have a majority of the 51 voters, 26 must vote in favour. So in the secret ballot system with “majority quorum” – 26 voters can make the decision for 100.

Under the card majority system – the lowest possible number of employees who must support a union out of a workplace of 100 is 51. (That’s 25 more than the above system). Some jurisdictions set a slightly higher threshold. In other words, an absolute majority of “all eligible employees” must be achieved through a card sign-up.

Now given this, why do unions prefer the card majority system to the other system?

Because, under the “so-called” secret ballot system, the fact is – it really isn’t a secret ballot.

You see, employees must usually come to a balloting location to cast their vote. Or send their ballot in through a system that identifies the voter, but not the vote. The employer inevitably (and by law) has a representative there to observe employees who come to vote, or send in ballots. (In fairness, the union has someone there too). BUT, if an employee does not come to vote – the employer knows, for absolute certain, that the particular employee DID NOT vote in favour of the union. If the employee does come to vote – the employer knows that the particular employee had a 50 - 50 chance of being a union supporter.

With any union drive, there will be those employees who are vocally opposed to unionization of the workplace. Management is well aware of who those people are, it is no secret. If you know who voted, and you know who will vote against a union, it doesn’t take much, through the process of elimination, to figure out who the supporters are. There are lots of cases where workers have been fired for being union supporters.

Furthermore, using our example of 100 employees – management is at a significant power and strategic advantage if only 26 people out of 51 voters voted to support – because the other 49 workers are too fearful to come out to vote and risk being thought of as a union sympathizer by the boss. Especially if the boss is openly hostile to unionization, and has been able to send that message through “expressing their opinion”.

And this says nothing of the whole issue of the anti-union tactics that 94% of employers already admit they are using when they find out that the employees are considering unionization. (12% of whom readily admit that what they are doing is illegal). See Sara Slinn's: Anti-union intimidation is real.

Let’s at least be honest about the reasons why the Sask. Party is proposing to change the certification process in Saskatchewan – it hasn’t got the slightest thing to do with “workplace democracy”.

Toxic Toys Christmas Jingle

Saturday, 22 December 2007

AFL's Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate publishes 6-month report

In November 2007, the Alberta Federation of Labour's Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate published her 6-month report.

The report outlines the Advocate's activities, highlights the disturbing problems inherent to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, details the exploitation of numerous foreign workers across the province, and offers 21 recommendations for both the federal and provincial governments to fix the problems.

In six months, the Advocate took more than 1,400 calls and opened case files for 123 foreign workers. The Advocate also spent a great deal of time speaking about the foreign worker program and the exploitation faced by foreign workers to community groups, government, and others.

The Advocate concludes that the Temporary Foreign Worker program is an unmitigated disaster for both the people involved and for Alberta.

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon

This is a very powerful video - Happy Christmas. Thanks to my friend Pat for sending it to me.

Yes Goldilocks - Saskatchewan's laws will be the WORST in Canada

Leader-Post financial editor, Bruce Johnstone appears to be ready to accept the arguments of the Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour on the scope and ramifications of the Sask. Party's new anti-labour legislation without having had the benefit of a discussion with someone who may have a different point of view. His opinion column entitled: "Goldilocks would like new labour legislation" appears in the Saturday, Dec. 22 issue.

I quite like Mr. Johnstone, he is a very pleasant man, and I've always enjoyed our chats. I look forward to the opportunity to sit down with him soon and have a more comprehensive dialogue about these matters.

I can assure Mr. Johnstone, without fear of exaggeration, that the legislative changes (as written) proposed by the Sask. Party government will in fact transform Saskatchewan's laws respecting "union certification", "employer communication" and "essential services" into the category of the worst or tied-for-worst provisions in Canada.

I'll touch on just a couple of items in this post to clear up some of the questions or points raised by Mr. Johnstone in his article:

1. All other jurisdictions in Canada have some form of "essential services" legislation. Actually, the jury is still out on Nova Scotia - despite broad-based public opposition, the conservative government of Rodney MacDonald tabled legislation to strip away certain health-care workers right to strike (i.e. essential services). The opposition Liberals and NDP in the Nova Scotia legislature do not support the Bill, and subsequently the minority governing Conservatives have refused to put the Bill to a vote - so apparently the Bill will die on the order paper. As a result, there is no essential services legislation in Nova Scotia - see this CBC report.

As for other jurisdications - some have accompanying "anti-scab" legislation, some have other mitigating legislation. Many jurisdictions engaged in broad based, comprehensive and respectful consultations, especially with the people who will be affected. And (I believe) NONE have legislation with such wide and sweeping powers that may effectively allow a "Cabinet" to designate every worker in the province (public or private) as an essential service worker. See Section 2 (i) (xi) and Section 21 (c) of Bill 5 - what do these mean? (And that's just one question - there are others, many, many others).

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Canada decision respecting HEU BC, active discussion is occuring across the county regarding potential Charter challenges of other existing "essential services" legislation.

2. Saskatchewan's legislation allows a certification vote to be triggered at 25% support. This is a moot point - because the practical application of the law is that unions in Saskatchewan rarely (if ever) apply to the LRB for a certification vote with support that low. So if the Sask. Party wanted to put the "trigger percentage" in the middle of the pack - they should have done that. They haven't - they have set it at the highest level of any other jurisdiction in Canada. A mid-point trigger would be 35 or 40% not 45%. See Bill 6.

Further, there are a number of legal questions that arise with respect to what constitutes majority support (i.e. 50% plus one "of those voting", or 50% plus one of "all eligible voters"), and where and how the definition of quorum is established for the purposes of certification votes. The Premier and the Minister have actually said things about this that directly contradict each other. Which one is accurate?

And how is it, that moving from a system that allows for an "automatic certification process based on card support" (which, by the way, is in place in the majority of jurisdictions in this country - 6 out of 11) to one that doesn't (which is in place in the minority of jursidictions in this country - 5 out of 11) is being competitive and consistent with other provinces?

In closing, what other jurisdictions in Canada confer upon an employer the ability to legally interfere with an employee's constitutional protection under the Freedom of Association provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights? The Supreme Court of Canada is clear - given the acknowledged power imbalance that exists between a worker and an employer, it is no business of an employer whether or not an employee wishes to be a member of a union. The employers "opinion" in the matter is not required, justified, nor warranted.

A few years ago I signed up a worker to a union in Westlock, Alberta. During that process he said to me: "My employer is my employer, he's not my mother."

Workers have no legislated right or entitlement to interfere in an employer's decision to join a "Business Association" or a "Chamber of Commerce". Why is the reverse necessary? Democratic Workplaces, Fair and Balanced Labour Laws - Indeed!

Season's Greetings and Best Wishes for the New Year. Give me a call Bruce, and we can go for a coffee, it's on me.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Semi driver rams picketer at Sun Rype strike in Kelowna

Aaron Ekman over at the Pacific Tribune Blog has posted a disturbing video of a semi driver ramming a picketer on the line on strike at Sun Rype in Kelowna, B.C. (The Semi has a Saskatchewan licence plate and "Regina, Sask." on the door)

Warning - Strong Language on the video which can be viewed by following this link.

According to the YouTube descriptor this is:
"Couple of drivers from europe on a govn't grant work thing- having a tough time in the confined space behind the fence- JACKNIFE! JACKPOT! They haven't come back."
Were these drivers hired under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP)? There is more information available about the SINP on the Saskatchewan Trucking Association web-site click here.

Saskatchewan will have WORST laws in Canada

It's confirmed. Preliminary analysis reveals that, if the current proposed changes to Saskatchewan Labour Legislation are passed, we will have the worst or tied-for-worst legislation in Canada related to union certification and essential services.

And if, as certain businesses and some politicians say - the proposed changes are "only modest" - that means our existing legislation couldn't have been that biased in favour of labour in the first place.

People have been fed a steady diet of untrue and distorted perceptions of what Saskatchewan's labour laws say - mostly from businesses and organizations that have a tiny fraction of their memberships unionized in the first place, if at all.

A classic distortion of reality was illustrated in a recent article in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: Labour legislation changes welcomed - where the Executive Director of the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA) is quoted as saying:

"People can be intimidated into voting one way if you stick up your hand, so with a secret ballot you can vote with your own conscience, not necessarily what anyone is telling you," she said. (emphasis added)

There hasn't been a union certified in this province by "show of hands" - EVER! Leaving that impression is quite frankly dishonest. Something we've come to expect from certain organizations.

Again, if our laws are so "pro-union and pro-labour" it would have taken more than simply "modest changes" to go from the middle of the pack to the bottom of the barrel.

Here's what some labour leaders have to say about it.

And here's what Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk has to say about it. I have a proposition - you don't think Saskatchewan's new "certification" and "essential services" legislation will be the WORST in Canada? Find me something worse, and I'll gladly post a link to it.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Saskatchewan Workers' Charter and Human Rights will be stripped away by new legislation

On Wednesday, December 19, 2007 the Brad Wall Sask Party government introduced two pieces of labour legislation in the form of Bill 5 - The Public Service Essential Services Act and Bill 6 - The Trade Union Amendment Act, 2007.

These two pieces of legislation, if passed in their current form, would result in Saskatchewan becoming the jurisdiction that has the worst union certification legislation and the worst essential services legislation in Canada - bar none.

In a single afternoon, Saskatchewan has gone from a province that had a highly respected and internationally recognized reputation of fair, balanced and competitive labour legislation to one of leading the pack in the race to the bottom. Brilliant retention and recruitment strategy!

See the SFL Official News Release.

Saskatchewan Government to attack workers democratic rights today

The Saskatchewan Government of Brad Wall will be introducing legislation today attacking workers Constitutional and Charter Rights. There has been absolutely no consultation with the organization that represents nearly 100,000 workers who will be directly affected by Bills 5 and 6.

Collective Bargaining is a Charter Right - An Analysis

Lawyers Valerie Matthews Lemieux (Manitoba) and Steven Barrett (Ontario) have recently written an analysis piece respecting Collective Bargaining and the Right to Strike for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives entitled: Charter Protection Extended to Collective Bargaining – How Far Does it Reach? (download the full document in Adobe PDF format here).

It raises serious legal questions about the authority of any government to unilaterally (and especially without broad and meaningful consultation) fetter workers Collective Bargaining Rights, and by extension the Right to Strike - which is an integral element of the collective bargaining process.

The analysis is offered against the backdrop of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision (June 2007 - HEU B.C.) which enshrined collective bargaining as a Charter Right.

Valerie Matthews Lemieux practices labour and aboriginal law through her own law corporation in Manitoba. She was co-counsel for the AG Manitoba in the original labour trilogy. Steven Barrettt is managing partner at Sack Goldblatt Mitchell in Ontario. He was co-counsel for the Canadian Labour Congress in the recent Health Services case.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Workers finally have new law to protect their wages: CLC

All I can say is: "It's about time!"

Workers finally have new law to protect their wages

December 14, 2007

OTTAWA – Canadian workers have finally won new legal protection for their wages and their pension contributions when their employer goes bankrupt. Bill C-12, a series of amendments to existing insolvency and wage protection laws, was approved by the Senate last night and received Royal Assent today. This was accomplished after an intensive three-year campaign by the Canadian Labour Congress and its affiliated unions to change bankruptcy laws that unfairly put workers last in line to get paid. read more...."

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Dispatches from the Youth Delegation at the United Nations Climate Talks, Bali

Bill Moyers interviews Keith Olbermann on Moyers Journal

Got 22 minutes to spare? Check out Bill Moyers' interview of Keith Olbermann. You can view the video and print the transcript by clicking here. "Bill Moyers talks with host of MSNBC's COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann about the relationships between politics and journalism."
(Photo courtesy PBS)

Who Said What to Whom, and When?

On Wednesday, December 12, 2007 in the Saskatchewan Legislature, Saskatoon NDP MLA Cam Broten asked Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour Rob Norris the following question:

"Mr. Broten: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it has been suggested that during the recent CUPE strike the Minister of Employment and Labour made a call to Peter MacKinnon, the president of the University of Saskatchewan. When reporters asked about conversations between Mr. MacKinnon and the minister, he replied, quote, “All I’ll say, there was a range of what I would term as quiet diplomacy. And I won’t give any specific details of that.”

To the Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour: what quiet diplomacy did he conduct during the CUPE strike, and exactly what does he feel is an appropriate level of involvement with one side of the table during a labour dispute?" (P. 46 - Hansard - December 12, 2007).

In his response, Mr. Norris did not deny that during the strike he spoke to U of S President, MacKinnon. It's hardly a coincidence then that shortly after CUPE 1975 rejected the University's "so-called final offer", Premier Brad Wall all of the sudden started to threaten back-to-work legislation.

So my questions are:

1. Who Said What to Whom, and When
2. Did the Minister of Employment and Labour really only speak to one-side?
3. Is "Quiet Diplomacy" code for "We did what the University asked us to do"?

I commented about this matter in an earlier post on this blog.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Your Civil Rights Are a Trade Barrier

There's a very interesting article posted over on "AlterNet.org" entitled: Your Civil Rights are a Trade Barrier.

The article discusses how trade agreements trump governments ability to bring in policy and legislation intended to proactively impact our society in ways that result in significant social benefit to the citizens of a country or a province. It reports on "A group of mining companies (who) are suing South Africa over rules requiring they hire some blacks."

In other words - It sheds light on Trade Agreements that prohibit governments from doing what they have been elected to do - which is legislate and regulate in the best interests of the citizens of the jurisdiction from they have been elected - not solely to carry out the wishes of the rich and powerful who occupy seats in the privileged boardrooms of global corporations.

Canada named "Worst Country in the World on Climate Change"


Canada's stance on climate change is a global embarassment.

"International officials and experts have named Canada the worst country in the world on climate change as a result of PM Harper’s climate plan: wreck any chance of an international agreement being reached at the UN summit in Bali this week.

PM Harper's short-sighted and corporate-driven policy on climate change has launched an attack on Canada's traditional role in the world. There's still a few days left to save our country, and the climate. Let's get a massive Canadian roar to remind our PM which country he's leading and what we stand for. Sign the petition, below calling on Harper to change Canada’s position at the Bali summit, and we'll advertise the number of signatures in an ad campaign across Canada this week. Sign the petition now!"

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Olbermann: "You, Mr. Bush, are a bald-faced liar."

Christmas Message 2007

Reproduced below is a Christmas message that I just read from Brother Tim Anderson, the President of CUPE Local 21 (City of Regina outside workers). It is very thoughtful and rings loudly in my ears. It is the best message I have seen for a long time and speaks to the sacrifice and commitment that union members make in our communities everyday.

Merry Christmas Tim!

Larry

"With the holiday season fast approaching, Christmas Day is not far away. As President of Local 21 and on behalf the Executive members, I would like to wish you, along with your families, the best of this joyous season. We hope this season will bring happy reunions, celebration, and new memories to cherish as we approach the New Year.

Christmas centers on the birth of a child, and on the message of hope and peace. We hear that message in many ways at Christmas, and it never looses the power to lift our hearts.

The holidays can also deepen our sense of gratitude for life, and for family and friends who fill our lives. We remember how much we have been given, and how much we have to share.

We think of those among us who spend the holidays in sadness or solitude. We think of those facing illness, or the loss of a loved one, or the hardships of poverty or unemployment. And across the city, caring Local 21 members are reaching out to those in need by volunteering their time. By serving a cause greater than themselves, Local 21 members spread hope in our community and make our city a better place to live.

At Christmas we also think of the sisters and brothers of Local 21 who are working shifts insuring the taxpayers are driving on safe streets, have clean water to drink, and recreation facilities to use, something we all take for granted. We are grateful for the commitment of our sisters and brothers, and we are safer because of their skills and sacrifice.

Separation from loved ones is always difficult, especially at this time of year. All sisters and brothers that must work over the holidays know their families miss them. I personally know of this as I worked shifts for some five years.

All Local 21 members who serve others or volunteer their time are living out the spirit of the Christmas season. The story of Christmas is familiar to us all, yet it still brings inspiration and comfort and love to people everywhere.

Whether we are watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the 100th time or watching our children inhale the Christmas spirit for the first time.

May the spirit of the season be with you today and throughout the new year. From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

In Solidarity,
Tim Anderson
President Local 21"

Monday, 10 December 2007

SFL News Release - 2007 Throne Speech

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour news release respecting the December 10, 2007 Saskatchewan Throne Speech is available by clicking here. (in Adobe PDF format)

Another Lawsuit Launched Against a Canadian Bank for Unpaid Overtime

From MSN Finance:
"Scotiabank faces C$350 mln unpaid overtime suit
Reuters
December 10, 2007
TORONTO (Reuters) - A second lawsuit against a Canadian bank alleging unpaid overtime was launched on Monday, this time against Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) for C$350 million ($346.5 million) in damages." Click here to continue reading.

From the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: Sask. employee representative in $350M class action against Scotiabank

From the Regina Leader-Post: Sask. banker leads lawsuit

From the CBC Website: Scotiabank hit with lawsuit over unpaid overtime

Elsewhere in this blog I reported on a $600 million lawsuit against CIBC.

Still think our Labour Laws are too worker and too union friendly???

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Get ready for the steady onslaught of Anti-Union Rhetoric - disguised as worker democracy

Next Monday (Dec 10, 2007) marks the beginning of the first legislative session of the Wall government in Saskatchewan. Wall's conservative Sask. Party were elected on November 7.

Since things could hardly be better in Saskatchewan, what with the booming economy, low unemployment rate, optimistic population, great productivity and efficiency, labour movement engagement in numerous co-operative initiatives and so on, it is difficult to understand why any government would want to create an unnecessary and totally irresponsible conflict where none currently exists.

Much good will has been built up over the past few years, through significant efforts in the area of Labour/Business/Government co-operation. Just one example is the creation of the new "Saskatchewan Labour Market Commission" which is still in it's infancy, but holds much promise if supported and encouraged.

However, the signals are loud and clear - Brad Wall's government have announced that they will be coming out of the gates with a full frontal attack on working people, their constitutional and charter rights and their democratic organizations. The Sask. Party government has announced it will table a number of pieces of anti-union/anti-worker legislation. In the past week, Wall and his cabinet have announced plans to amend (without consultation) the Trade Union Act respecting union certification and employer communication; to open-end the length of collective agreements; and to bring in unneccessary and intrusive "essential services legislation". This is just what they have announced, I'm not sure what else they plan to introduce.

I'm curious as to how this squares with Mr. Wall's election campaign commitment to "reach out to labour". As far as I'm aware, he hasn't consulted with anyone in the labour movement about any of these proposed legislative changes.

Yesterday's National Post carried a commentary by Sara Slinn from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University entitled: Anti-union intimidation is real. I think it's a preview of what we are about to witness in Saskatchewan.

I found this section of the commentary particularly revealing:

"Most academic studies find that employer anti-union tactics are both widespread and effective. A survey of managers at Canadian workplaces where union organizing had recently occurred found 94% used anti-union tactics, and 12% admitted to using what they believed to be illegal, unfair labour practices to discourage employees from unionizing.

The commentators cited academic research showing that introduction of mandatory vote procedures significantly reduce the probability of certification. They suggested that mandatory votes remove this imbalance, and thus fewer certifications result. The commentators implied this was because of a weakness of the card system. However, we must be very careful about making such an assumption.

Academic research, including one of the studies referred to by the commentators, suggests a different explanation. It suggests that the explanation lies in the advantage votes give to employer anti-union efforts. Unionization is less likely under mandatory votes because employers are encouraged to resist unionization and research shows that these union-avoidance efforts (legal and illegal) are more effective under the vote than card system."

Too bad we will have to spend so much time and energy on this when we could be spending our time cooperating, consulting, and working together to create a province that respects the rights of working people in addition to being a great place to work, play, raise a family, and run a business.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Local media declares Jihad on Saskatchewan government

There are a couple of articles/columns in today's (Friday, December 7, 2007) Regina Leader-Post reporting on the Brad Wall government's recent flip-flop on the question of "Essential Services Legislation". Before the election they said they "Wouldn't bring in legislation", now they are determined that they will.

The article is by James Wood - Wall tries to settle labour law confusion.

and the column by Murray Mandryk - Sask. Party rewrites election script.

Just to clear up the comments regarding demonstrations and rallies on the steps of the legislature -- this is how it went. It was right at the end of a 15 minute scrum following my meeting (On Thursday) with the new minister in charge of labour, Rob Norris. I had talked and responded to questions about worker rights; potential judicial challenges against the backdrop of recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions; why the Sask. Party said one thing before the election and the complete opposite after the election; whether workers might defy legislation like has occurred in the past; and so on.

We were just about to conclude the interview and Leader-Post Reporter James Wood demands something like - "so if the Wall government refuses to back down and refuses to consult appropriately will we be seeing 500 people protesting on the steps of the legislature?"

I looked at him with a puzzled and astonished look, thinking to myself - "you can't be serious James, we're talking about peoples' constitutional and charter rights here - that's the best question you can ask?" and I responded (kind of tongue in cheek) - "oh I don't know, probably - maybe even more. If workers feel strongly enough that this is an infringement on their charter rights I'm sure they'll protest in a variety of ways."

p.s. Murray Mandryk wasn't even there to witness me "declaring Jihad ... with my threats of protests on the steps of the legislature." It was James Wood who threatened protests on the steps of the legislature, I just responded that protests were a possibility. Talk about sensationalism and exaggeration.

Other than that - the article and column are pretty good.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

U. of S. Faculty Association joins SFL

On December 4th, the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association (USFA) voted to become the latest union to join the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

The USFA represents approximately 1,000 faculty members including professors, librarians, archivists, and extension specialists at Saskatchewan’s largest university.
I am very pleased that the Faculty Association has chosen to join the House of Labour. Their decision to join the SFL reinforces that in this day and age, workers need unions, and unions need strong central organizations to advocate on their behalf.

These additional members at the University of Saskatchewan will make a fantastic addition to the diverse make-up of the SFL. Our Federation is an organization that truly reflects the wide cross-section of workers in virtually all occupations throughout the province.
The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Executive Council will finalize the affiliation at their meeting next week in Regina.
The SFL now represents nearly 95,000 unionized workers from 37 affiliated unions in Saskatchewan.
See official SFL News Release here. (in Adobe PDF format)

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women


Saskatchewan's labour central urged all Saskatchewan citizens to take time to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre this December 6th. Fourteen young women were shot and killed that day in cold blood.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Federation of Labour working hard to bring sides to table

Leader-Post reporter Anne Kyle filed this linked article for publication in the Thursday, December 6, 2007 issue of the paper.

There is a second article reporting of the same matter on the CBC Web-site.

These articles refer to efforts being made by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour to assist the parties to settle the dispute.

Keith Olbermann: George Bush and His Iranian Masquerade

Monday, 3 December 2007

Saskatchewan University Workers Reach Tentative Settlement

While I am pleased that the members of CUPE 1975 at the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan have achieved a tentative agreement and have ended their strike - I have some thoughts about how that agreement came to pass. CUPE's web-site article about the final bargaining session facilitated by provincial conciliator Doug Forseth is linked here.

The two outstanding issues that precipitated the strike have been referred to "binding arbitration". Previously, CUPE had offered to end the strike by referring these same two issues to "non-binding mediation" - an offer that was rejected by the University leadership.

The following excerpt from the article speaks volumes:

"It's not the resolution we wanted, but the government's threat of back-to-work legislation meant 'arbitration' was the only topic of discussion at the conciliation table," says CUPE 1975 bargaining chair Brad McKaig. "Since both employers appeared to prefer legislation to negotiation, it had a huge influence on what we could achieve at the table."

Premier Brad Wall told the media on Thursday the government would end the strike through back-to-work legislation if no agreement was reached in concilation talks, which resumed Friday.

"Given the threat of government intervention, our only option was to influence how arbitration would proceed, not whether it would proceed," says McKaig.
So how did all of this come to pass? I think that the President of the U of S - probably called (former University of Saskatchewan employee) the new Minister in charge of the labour portfolio (Rob Norris) and asked for the government to exert the heavy hand and introduce the threat of legislation. Plain and simple.

I also think that the new Minister responded to the request, and the Premier issued the "threat".

Now, just to put things in perspective - during the week prior to CUPE 1975 voting on the employers "so-called final offer", I placed a call to the new Minister and offered (through his office) to meet with him to discuss the matter, and offered to provide labour's perspective. I'm still waiting to hear back from Mr. Norris in this regard. Somehow, I don't think he's interested in anything workers or their representatives have to say about anything.

I guess that's what the new Minister meant when he said to reporters following his appointment that the government would be "Rebalancing the relationship with labour". And that's what the new Premier meant when he said during the election campaign that he would be "Reaching out to labour".

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Public Pressure Forces B.C. Government to Drop Vote on TILMA Enforcement Bill

It appears that the secretive, anti-democratic Gord Campbell government in British Columbia has a bit of trouble on their hands. For a second time, public pressure and fierce opposition has forced them to back down on their attempts to ram through the B.C. / Alberta Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) enforcement bill.

TILMA is a massive assault on democracy and is being pushed by corporations and the right-wing governments and political parties that they control.

Read the Council of Canadians news release about this by clicking here.

In addition, Erin Weir has added more commentary on the topic of anti-democratic government behaviour over at the "Progressive Economics Form" Blog under the title of: TILMA, Ontario and Quebec: The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

"The End of America": Naomi Wolf and Amy Goodman Discuss America's Descent into Fascism

"Naomi Wolf outlines what she sees as the ten steps to shut down a democratic society. She argues the Bush administration has already implemented many of these steps."

Part 1 - The End of America: Naomi Wolf


Part 2 - The End of America: Naomi Wolf


Read more and watch the video interview of Naomi Wolf by Amy Goodman from Democracy Now on AlterNet.org by clicking here.

Enterprise Saskatchewan: Former CFIB director Dale Botting lands key role in Saskatchewan Party government

Joe Kuchta over at the "Owls and Roosters" Blog has posted an interesting update on Enterprise Saskatchewan and a backgrounder on Dale Botting, the recently appointed Deputy Minister attached to the portfolio. You can read it by clicking here.