The Alberta majority government has moved a series of bills that, when looked at together, drastically undermine unions in the province. Bill 1, passed in May, makes it illegal to protest 'essential infrastructure'. Bill 32 makes multiple changes to labour law, restricts picketing activities, creates an onerous system where members must opt-in for dues used for 'political activity', and more. Finally, Bill 26 changes the Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act allowing big money to pour into Alberta politics.
When we are debating how best to build worker power through their unions it is usually in the context of winning demands at the bargaining table. But, under advanced capitalism, union power is mostly measured in terms of how badly we are losing. This is not useful as a metric for discussion of labour law reforms attempting to impose balance in labour relations between unions and capital. If we think of unions as structures of democracy, then we can shift the narrative around power simply to refer to winning or losing the battle for our own democracy. And, democracy, unlike worker power at the bargaining table, is entirely in the hands of workers. Socialists should focus on building democracy in discussion on labour reform. Then, no matter what we are able to win in terms of power at the union's bargaining table or reforms that raise standards for workers outside unions, we are helping to build the socialism we want.