What's Left 2015-11-09 Volume 34

CUPE Convention, union dues, Movember's gendered politics, Long-form census back, equality in cabinet, Marijuana, Hydro One IPO, Keystone XL and more. All original articles from across the left this week.

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Canada’s largest union debates resource allocation

This past week saw the largest union in the country engage in a debate on where to focus the use of union dues, in campaigns or in strike support.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents roughly 630,000 workers from across Canada. Members include both blue and white collar employees of public, non-profit, and private for-profit workplaces, mostly in social and community support service sectors like welfare, education, health, and energy. CUPE members consider their union as Canada’s community union, with a majority of members focusing on social unionism over self-interested business unionism.

The focus on social unionism means that CUPE activists continually debate what resources their union will dedicate to public policy campaigns that include union rights, anti-austerity, the defense of public services, and solidarity support for marginalized groups. The hard question is how to balance support for strike actions with proactive engagement in mass public education campaigns.

CUPE decided this week to engage in a massive two-year cross-country consultation to determine how best to invest union dues. Given changes to “essential services” legislation that ban an increasing number of CUPE members from striking and the growth of precarious employment and those living pay cheque to pay cheque, the fiscal strain of striking is becoming an increasing barrier to engaging in strike actions. As such, members are being asked how best CUPE can balance these priorities.

Union organizers and activists need to establish a full analysis for members so that these questions may be answered without being taken in by the rhetoric and posturing of those who seek to exploit these issues for political gain. The future of militant action within CUPE is at stake. If the union gets it right, then it could lead to a broader change in the way unions advance change for working people.

More: See section 32 of CUPE’s Strategic Directions

Movember, a corporate prescription of gender

The month of November is increasingly associated with exaggerated moustaches thanks to the charitable campaign Movember. The charity was founded in 2004 by a group of men who sought to raise awareness of men’s health issues they thought were underfunded. Movember is promoted by men (“Mo-Bros”) who encourage the growth of moustaches to raise money for men’s health research and services with a specific emphasis on prostate cancer and mental health. The campaign also promotes the idea that “Mo-sistas” can be active in the campaign by remaining without facial and body hair, and supporting the Mo-bros in their moustache growing efforts through additional fundraising.

Unfortunately, Movember has gained popularity by exploiting the idea that a “real-man” is someone who can grow a moustache and has a prostate. By minimizing complex real-world gender experiences and identities, Movember reinforces sexism, transphobia, and gender stereotypes. Additionally, the campaign draws on stereotypes of class, ethnicity, gender and non-urban communities by hyping-up various style of moustaches as being comical. In these cases, many people in rural communities, many who are racialized, and many who are poor end up being targeted as having what the campaign would deem as undesirable and thus comical facial hair.

Too often, private fundraising reinforces negative social divisions and misinforms the public about issues related to their project in an attempt to drive an emotional response to get a donation. Movember’s private charity model not only fails to address the complexity underlying men’s health issues, but it also weakens social solidarity and inclusion.

The charity’s idea is that by donating money people are supporting actual societal change, but the reality is that this campaign likely undermines real understanding of public health issues. Instead, Canadians should be demanding universal public health initiatives that are inclusive to all real-world experiences.

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=e21e35be0c&e=8484a6ba75][Growing Oppression on One’s Face: The Hegemonic Limitations of the Movember Iconic Moustache]]

More: Open Letter: Why I don’t participate in Movember

More: Movember as microaggression


Federal Liberals undo damaging Conservative policies

The federal Liberals have moved to undo some of the anti-science Conservative policies. The Liberals have re-instated the mandatory long-form census and unmuzzled government scientists. While these moves were promised by the Liberals, it does not guarantee that they will better use science to form policy. The Liberals are just as beholden to private oil and finance interests as the Conservatives, but instead of trying to hide the science, Liberals have a history of trying to explain it away.

Federal unions representing scientists are calling for language in their collective agreements that will ensure their continued ability to speak with the media about their research.

More: PS union seeks ‘unmuzzle’ clause in scientists’ contracts

Because it’s 2015: equality needs to stay on the agenda

The first week of the Liberal government is a classic case in point of the Liberals “talk left, govern right” practice. The Liberals were forced to backtrack and clarify cabinet appointments after they were called out for saying one thing about equality and doing another.

The Liberals were sworn-in on Wednesday and the country celebrated with great gusto the thaw of a decade under a dark Harper regime that too often was anti-women. The ceremony itself was meant to celebrate Trudeau’s first fulfilled promise to appoint as many women as men to cabinet minister positions. Responding to a question about why he chose to have gender parity in his cabinet, Trudeau’s answer was “Because it’s 2015”. However, this pomp and circumstance belied the fact that the most powerful cabinet appointments remained in the hands of men. The truth seemed to be that a third of the women were appointed as Ministers of State – a position that traditionally earns a smaller salary, has less power, and reports to a more senior (usually male) Minister.

After an uproar from activists that pointed out this hypocrisy, the Liberals were forced to clarify on Friday that all ministers were going to be treated equally.

The whole situation should serve as a warning for what’s to come. Usurping progressive language such as equality, social and economic justice, and Indigenous rights will be too easy for the Liberals who will operate in reaction to the Harper decade. The need to clarify, respond, and analyze government positions words and actions will be of great importance for the left in the next four years.

More: Op-ed: Because it’s 2015

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=904e8424a8&e=8484a6ba75][Why Trudeau was right not to appoint a First Nations minister of Indigenous Affairs]]

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=97fd8f0bbb&e=8484a6ba75][Justin Trudeau’s 5 female ‘ministers of state’ are full ministers after all]]

Doing marijuana legalization wrong

While the Trudeau Liberals have promised to legalize marijuana production and consumption in Canada, its implementation will be incredibly important. If handled properly, marijuana legalization will free the justice system from dealing with a whole class of “criminal”, allow tens-of-thousands of Canadians to safely engage in an activity they already enjoy responsibly, and provide the government with a new source of revenue.

However, the most recent marijuana ballot measure in Ohio shows that, without thoughtful and thorough regulation, the marijuana industry could become a for-profit playground for a handful of mega-corporations. While the Ohio vote failed to pass (and marijuana remains illegal in the state), the initiative would have given exclusive growing and distribution rights to only 10 properties owned by the same investors who funded the campaign.

More: The Wrong Way to Legalize Marijuana?

Hydro One IPO: Flawless theft of a public company

Kathleen Wynne has been channelling Margret Thatcher this week while the Ontario government finished their initial public offering (IPO) for 15% of Hydro One. In what can only be described as a flawless theft of a public asset by the 1%, Wynne’s Liberals have been hoodwinked by Bay Street’s snake oil salesmen. No one agrees with what the Ontario Liberals have done – including the budget watchdog, independent finance experts, over 80% of the general public, and most of Wynne’s own party – and this has lead to a precipitous decline in the government’s approval ratings.

Moving forward, the campaign will have to focus on making it clear to voters that the Wynne Liberals will always side with their Bay Street friends over the working people of Ontario. Only continued public pressure and mass campaigns will halt the sell-off of everything the public owns.

Landmark decision on Keystone XL

In an example that shows Canada’s climate policies are not going to change much under Trudeau, the Liberals announced that they would back Keystone XL. The timing could not have been worse as, the day after, the US rejected the planned pipeline. While Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is a significant symbolic move, it is mostly in response to the changing economic realities faced by the oil companies.

In Canada, we need policies that support a just transition for oil and other energy workers who will lose their jobs and a national industrial strategy that ensures a sustainable future. The Liberals seem unwilling to even contemplate this.

More: Liberals back Keystone XL pipeline, Stephane Dion says

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=10a58cbabc&e=8484a6ba75][Keystone XL rejection proves need for sustainable oilsands development: Dion]]

Justice for cleaners in Toronto

SEIU has a campaign to support (and organize) cleaners in major office towers in Toronto. SEIU states that “legal complaints were filed last week against companies contracted by Dream Office REIT to provide cleaning services at 330, 350, 357, 360 and 366 Bay Street, 80 and 67 Richmond Street, 56 Temperance Street.” See the links below for more details and a second planned rally.

More: Justice for Janitors

More: Rally on Tuesday, November 10 at Noon

Thinking about Disability and Comfort

Winnipeg-based activist Elizabeth Kessler begins an extremely important discussion about disability. In her blog, Murky Green Waters, she speaks about her experiences with others when talking about disability and how most of us are so uncomfortable with the discussion that we struggle with the appropriate ways to react. But sometimes no reaction is more problematic than an uncomfortable reaction, and sometimes it’s just straight up oppressive. Let’s start thinking more deeply and having raw conversations about disability.

More: When talking about disability makes us uncomfortable

Brand New Canadaland eNewsletter: Not Sorry

Email newsletters are definitely a thing these days. Crowd-funded Canadaland has launched a weekly newsletter that comments on news of the week. Sarcastic and entertaining, Not Sorry looks to be a promising addition to your inbox.

More: Not Sorry


Neuropolitics in the wild… watching, learning

Data has become a critical part of any political campaign. Information about who voted where, what they said on the doorstep, whether they donated to a party, showed up to an event, or liked a post on Facebook are now all being used by political campaigns to better shape messaging, mobilize supporters, and get out the vote on elections day.

As the New York Times details, “neuromarketing” or “neuropolitics” takes this data collection a step further. By embracing technologies such as facial recognition and biometric scanning, political parties, governments, and companies are able to get live, visual feedback from random, unknowing citizens encountering political imagery and messaging in their day-to-day lives. For instance, by placing hidden cameras in billboards, a political party can learn, in real-time, how individuals react to different kinds of messaging.

Most readers will be familiar with the reaction graphs that ran across the bottom of the screen during the 2012 U.S. election debates. However, while this data was provided consensually by a group of interested voters, these new methodologies are raising ethical questions around the implications for privacy and for democracy – even while it’s effectiveness is being questioned by many neuroscientists.

Already in the wild, this technology is being used to choose candidates and shape political messaging in dozens of countries, including the United States.

More: Neuropolitics, Where Campaigns Try to Read Your Mind

Rolling Stone: The Case for Bernie Sanders

Matt Taibbi has written a scathing critique of the corporate media’s unflattering focus on Bernie Sanders – the socialist running for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Taibbi, the author who helped to build popular understanding of the crimes that bankers committed in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crash, outlines why Sanders is the best choice for the Democratic Party. categories: [“What’s Left”]

More: The Case for Bernie Sanders

Grants, Not Debt Rally in UK

The Conservative government in the UK has continued its attack on universal post-secondary education, introducing further tuition fee increases and eliminating needs-based grants for working-class and struggling middle class students.

A national protest against tuition fees and calling for the maintenance of the grants system occurred on November 4.

Anabel Bennett, a protest organizer at University College writes that,“the generation who had EMA cuts and tuition fees imposed on us are now voters – and in Jeremy Corbyn, we finally have a politician on our side.” But, it is up to student organizers to keep the pressure on so the Parliamentary Labour Party backs Corbyn’s initiatives to restore public university to England.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=cfa9e4efd5&e=8484a6ba75][We were told free higher education was a dream. Today we march to make it reality]]