What's Left 2017-05-28 Volume 94

Ontario's Changing Workplaces Review; Poll says most people want Greens to Side with NDP in British Columbia; Citizens' Press Brazil Correspondent Report; Corbyn Gaining Ground; OECD takes a look at UBI and finds it wanting as a solution; Book review: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review

The final report on how Ontario could change the legislation that regulates rights covering employment, union, and benefits has been released. Rumours continue that the Ontario Liberals will move forward with legislation within the week – causing a scramble by proponents and opponents alike.

The more than 170 recommendations in the report is no easy reading. But, the report lands softly, acknowledging many of the recommendations presented by labour, but only recommending action on some of them. Notably absent is a recommendation to return to automatic card-based certification, making it easier for workers to exercise their right to form workplace unions.

Deeper analysis will be forthcoming as well as responses to the Liberal’s legislation.

Liberal Government can take immediate steps to improve the lives of millions through the Changing Workplaces Review, says OFL

Major labour law reform? Changing Workplace Review Final Report “majorly disappointing,” says CUPE Ontario President

Changing Workplaces Review highlights urgent need for action, says Unifor

Final report of Changing Workplaces Review released

Poll says most people want Greens to Side with NDP in British Columbia

Following several lengthy recounts, the British Columbia Liberals (who are actually much closer to the Conservative Party than the Liberal party), did not win a majority of seats. With the results as they are, the BC Green Party now holds the balance of power and will determine who will govern the province for the near future. Optimistically, this means the NDP and Greens will have the option to form government. According to polls taken following the recounts, this is the preferred option for the vast majority of BCers. While the Greens are, in essence, an economically liberal party, their main focus of progressive environmental policy aligns more with the NDP than the Liberals. But the choice is not so clear-cut for the Green Party. While opportunistically backing the Liberals risks the Green’s losing their base, trying to build a coalition with the NDP also carries the risk of losing support to a more mainstream party that takes on green positions.

While the current desired outcome is an NDP-Green government where the NDP advances an openly progressive position on the environment and labour, the NDP must also act to solidify enough working class support to win a majority in the next election. The biggest obstacle to an NDP-Green coalition is the NDP’s fear of alienating some trade and industrial unions by engaging in an honest discussion about the need to move investment out of fossil fuels. But, honest conversations must also include a real vision for the future. Including, a clear program of just transition, linking investment to specific jobs, increasing public employment, and providing sufficient social supports so workers, communities and their families see a clear path to decent employment.

Unions that are supportive of removing the Liberals from power need to raise their voice in support of Just Transition policies and progressive options for job creation in regions hit by the shifting nature of the economy. An NDP-Green coalition could present the opportunity to start a new conversation on what a ecological, pro-worker, socialist economy should look like in Canada.

Poll finds B.C. residents want Greens to back NDP, no snap election



Citizens’ Press Brazil Correspondent Report

Brazil’s Temer government is on a knife’s edge and could fall in the coming weeks, having lost almost all support. Major protests are taking place all over the country. A general strike took place two weeks ago. The right wing has no candidate or viable program. However, the institutional left is facing a similar situation.

Brazil’s previous president, Lula, remains very popular and polls show he would win an election if it were held today, but it is far from clear that he will survive the current legal proceedings against him. Particularly now that the highly political Lava-Jato anti-corruption operation has seemingly acquired new legitimacy following the latest revelations incriminating Temer and Neves (President of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party) – the main opposition party to Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT).

Perhaps more importantly is that the PT doesn’t have a viable program. After interviewing a couple of PT heavy-weights and various union allies, it is clear the PT has very limited capacities to lead a direct and open fight against a radicalized right-wing that is not willing to accept the PTs program of class conciliation. Although this program is seen as quite rational by Brazil’s working class press given the global economic situation. In addition, the left outside of the PT remains small, confused, and fragmented, featuring a recent split in the PT and rising tensions within the Socialism and Liberty Party faction of the coalition.

In other words, there’s is a political vacuum at the moment. It is hard to know what this will lead to in the short term.

Corbyn Gaining Ground

The Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership has been skyrocketing in the polls. The gap between Labour and the Conservatives has shrunk from 20+ points at the beginning of the countries national election campaign to within 5 points. Corbyn’s personal approval rating has also been growing as people get to know him. All this is to say that campaigning on a socialist platform can actually work, which is somehow surprising to the UK’s elite liberal media. Even the pseudo-progressive Financial Times and Guardian (which has been the most vocal opponent of Labour’s shift left) have had to begrudgingly stop ignoring Corbyn’s campaign.

OECD takes a look at UBI and finds it wanting as a solution

The industrialized nations’ policy group has taken an in-depth neoliberal look at the idea of Universal Basic Income and found it is an expensive and generally poor alternative to public services and state welfare programs. What is striking is that the report highlights the drastic cuts to funding for social service across the world that have occurred in recent history.

OECD Basic Income Policy Option



Book review: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

It seems unbelievable that Zora Neale Hurston was almost completely forgotten as an important African-American author of the 1930’s. And yet, her best known novel, Their eyes were watching God, had to be dug up from the archives as late as the 1970’s and 1980’s, where it spent far too much time unread and unappreciated. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the classic, providing an excellent opportunity to engage with the prose and substance of Zora Neale Hurston’s writing. categories: [“What’s Left”]

Janie Crawford is the main character we follow in the pages of Their Eyes Were Watching God. She starts off as a young woman with purpose but Florida in the 1920’s offered limited options in life for African-American women. She lives under the hopes and dreams of her grandmother, who spent most of her life as a slave in the south of the United States. She tries to impose on Janie a quiet married life where she can enjoy time on the front porch: the best kind of leisure time she has ever known of freedom. Janie then embarks on her first marriage at a young age.

She quickly learns that in her haste she may have overlooked character traits in her husband that do not suit her at all. After some time struggling with loneliness, she flees. We will learn to know Janie through this marriage and another one (to Jody Starks) before she gets to better define the terms of her own happiness in her third real relationship. It is when she meets and gets to know a younger fellow nicknamed Tea Cake that her connection to herself and to the people around her will truly flourish.

Together, they will leave their town and head towards the bean fields of the Everglades region of Florida. They live near the fields and build a community around them. Janie challenges conventions by working the fields despite being a woman, and for the first time in her life experiences personal satisfaction, love, and joy. The passage of the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane will force them to fight for their lives in one of the deadliest storms on record for the North Atlantic basin. The descriptions of the fowl weather and desperation during the historical storm are chilling.

There are many themes packed into this novel: the role of women, the institution of marriage, poverty, racism, gender, power, love, friendship, and many more. Dialogues make up so much of how the storyline comes together, and it’s worth noting that they are written in the vernacular of the south of the United States in the early 20th century. In a famous quote, Janie confesses to her friend Pheoby: “Dey gointuh make ‘miration ‘cause mah love didn’t work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”

When this book was re-discovered by the likes of Audre Lorde and Alice Walker in the 1970’s, it finally started to get the recognition it deserves as an important black feminist work. To be blunt, it is difficult to summarize and contextualize this book since Their eyes were watching God feels much too extraordinary to boil down. It’s a short read, but it leaves a powerful, unshakable impression. To truly appreciate Zora Neale Hurston’s impact as one of the first Black American novelists, I plead: read the book.

Their yes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston