Sunday, 10 February 2008

Labour has always had to fight an uphill battle for public opinion

The Saturday February 9, 2008 issues of the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix both ran a column written by Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk.

In the Leader-Post the column has the headline: Labour blind to its image problem.
In the StarPhoenix it's title is: Method behind seeming madness.

The column is primarily rooted in the SFL's request to Sask. Party Premier Brad Wall that the provincial government refer its two anti-union, anti-worker, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic labour law Bills (5 and 6) to the Sask. Court of Appeal for determination as to their constitutionality. (The request has been made pursuant to the Saskatchewan Constitutional Questions Act.)

I really enjoy having a conversation (some would call it an interview) with Mr. Mandryk. It's always very intellectually stimulating, interspersed with humour, emotion and passion. In fact, sometimes the process could just as easily be described as sport, or a debate - and Murray is a very capable opponent. No pushover this guy.

As our recent chat concluded (which resulted in the aforementioned column), Mandryk quipped, "you will probably like 50% of the column and dislike the other 50%" - (my paraphrase, I didn't write the exact words down). To which I responded, "Oh, I'll just blog about it!" He laughed.

So Murray, if you're reading this blog [and I know that you do ;-)] - the best I can rate the column is 1/3 good, 2/3 not-so-good. A friend of mine could only bring himself to rate it 20% - 80%.

The biggest problem with the column is that it's rooted in the assumption that what government is saying is "accurate" - which it is not; and that Mr. Mandryk has accurately identified the labour movement's motive, objective, strategy and purpose - which he has not.

Just a quick example to illustrate. Murray writes:
"However, the government points out that all jurisdictions but Quebec and Newfoundland allow communication. Similarly, all jurisdictions have some form of essential services legislation."
Actually, Saskatchewan already allows for employer communication too. There is no prohibition against an employer communicating with an employee during a union drive. They just can't attempt to influence the employee's decision - that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The amendments proposed by Brad Wall and company attempt to make legal what has already been determined to be illegal by the Supreme Court of Canada.

As for "all jurisdictions having some form of essential services legislation". That statement is just not factually true.

There are other examples similar to the above throughout the article.

Further, as for the suggestion that the labour movement is "oblivious to the fact that they are simply on the wrong side of public opinion" -- hardly. We know exactly where public opinion is on this matter, and why it's there. It's because people are being fed a steady diet of biased, inaccurate, one-sided and distorted information. By the government, by their big business backers, and by a sympathetic and supportive corporate owned media.

Labour has always had to fight an uphill battle for public opinion - the deck is stacked against us. Nothing new here.

Here's an idea, I challenge Mr. Norris or Mr. Wall (or both) to a Public Debate on the issue of labour laws in Saskatchewan. It can even be with a specific focus on these two bills. Murray, you can be the moderator. Any takers?

p.s. We must be getting to the government on this file - they've decided they need to have the new part-time Minister of Labour post a bunch of cheesy video responses to a few questions about the new WORST labour laws in Canada on the government web-site.

p.s.s. We might just have to serve up some of our own cheese. Stay tuned.


leftdog said...

I find Mandryk neither fair nor balanced. Here is an example where he slightly changed some wording so that he could go hard against the Sask New Democrats. Mandryk has NEVER responded to this nor corrected it.

The problem with this particular columnist is that he is so full of himself, he believes that he is smarter than anyone else. What he forgets is that the public is not fooled by his antics.

The Haivens said...

As academics, we can say that the research shows that the stronger unions are at doing their job, the lower they seem to stand in public opinion polls. Conversely, the weaker they are in doing their job, the higher their public popularity. It's an unfortunate fact of union life, but nobody said this business was easy.

Robert Pitzel said...

I often find it unbelievable how often people refer to union activity, most noticably when unions are fighting for peoples rights, as madness or extream.

Why? Why would anyone not want to retain their rights? Or limit themselves and their brothers below a recognized level of equality?

Simply, everyone deserves to have their rights respected without interference.

David said...

Who are your lawyers on this file, Larry? I think I know.

David said...


I think murray will take immense satisfaction of you accusing him of partisanship. He gets the same crap from dippers (or did at least).

Murray is economically illiterate, and hopelessly (small-L) liberal, but partisanship doesn't influence his writing.

Make no mistake about it -- public opinion is solidly with the SP on this. That, in itself, isn't justification though. Popular opinions aren't always the right ones.

Unions are about as popular as the Taliban these days -- by which I mean only among leftists.

Larry Hubich said...


At this point, there are 8 lawyers attached to this file in varying roles and aspects.


can't_believe_it said...

Government should not pay for court analysis. Let the whiners that are "agrieved" pay the bill...If you want to waste your members money go ahead. There are two reasons not to..1) every non-communist province in the country has similar legislation, 2) one word - "notwithstanding" as in "notwithstanding the union idiots in saskatchewan ....."