What's Left 2015-06-28 Volume 18

| June 29, 2015


In the deal (approved by Co-op delegates and the central board with no communication to members), Sobeys (a subsidiary of Empire Company Ltd.) acquired Co-op’s wholesale business and several Co-op grocery stores. The day following the acquisition, workers at the newly purchased stores were told to prepare for inventory liquidation and search for new jobs.


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“FEATURE”

Co-op Atlantic sells-out to Sobeys

On June 25, Co-op Atlantic (a collectively owned consumers' cooperative found throughout the Maritimes) announced that it was selling its grocery and gas business to Sobeys. As part of the sale, 400 jobs will be eliminated along with the closure of several Co-op Atlantic Distribution Centres.

In the deal (approved by Co-op delegates and the central board with no communication to members), Sobeys (a subsidiary of Empire Company Ltd.*) acquired Co-op’s wholesale business and several Co-op grocery stores. The day following the acquisition, workers at the newly purchased stores were told to prepare for inventory liquidation and search for new jobs. Locally-owned Co-op locations that were not sold have been informed that they will now have to deal exclusively with Sobeys as their wholesaler.

The principles of the Co-op have been under attack increasingly over the past 20 years. Eighteen years ago the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce complained about Co-op’s pricing of jeans, followed by several suppliers withdrawing their brands from store shelves. Co-op was also not allowed to provides member discounts for gas and had to give members Co-op cash instead (in contrast, Costco was given approval to provide gas discounts to its members).

Despite the declaration on the Co-op membership card that members own and control the business to benefit their communities, and that co-operation represents democracy in action, members have not been allowed any say in the sale. The Co-op board is behaving with the same ideology as any corporation – focusing on larger profits at the expense of smaller shareholders and workers.

/*Empire Company Ltd. is a multi-billion dollar corporation that owns a dozen other food chains including: Food Town, Foodland, FreshCo, IGA, Price Chopper, Thrifty Foods, Target’s Grocery business, Safeway, and up until 2013 it also ran almost 80 movie theatres./

More: Co-op Atlantic votes to sell grocery business to Sobeys

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=eb79380962&e=8484a6ba75][Co-op distribution centre on Keltic Drive to close; 40 layoff notices issued]]

More: Co-op Atlantic closing Charlottetown grocery store on Queen Street

More: Co-op Atlantic stores flying new banner

“CANADA”

Saint John throws money overboard while public services sink

The city of Saint John, New Brunswick is reviewing a tax deal it made with the infamous Irving empire in 2005. The deal between the company and the cash-strapped city appears to have been signed to save Irving \$7.5 million per year in property taxes. Obvious questions have surfaced: Who knew about the deal? What did they know? At what point in time did they know? At face value, it is looking more and more like a one-sided deal that only benefited Irving.

It’s important to ask why do cities like Saint John, with a recent history of making cuts to public services, continue to offer cut-rate tax deals to exploitative monopolies? Residents and city workers should be scrutinizing these sorts of deals, especially when cities cut services and demand concessions from workers to make up for the lost revenue.

More: 3 questions Saint John seeks to answer about Canaport LNG tax deal

New Brunswick leads the charge against students

The province of New Brunswick has a bone to pick with students. Under the guise of “righting the fiscal ship”, the government has decided to save a few pennies on a student support program by increasing the threshold of eligibility by \$6,000 in student debt. For a recently graduated student in New Brunswick, that means roughly \$3,000 more in interest over the life of the loan and an increase of \$75 a month in debt payments.

This is a direct attack on accessible post-secondary education in a province with some of the highest tuition fees in Canada. Students need to start thinking about the costs of not protesting a government that increases the cost of education overnight, forcing students deeper into debt.

More: University students will face higher debt after change in New Brunswick

Ontario spent millions on contracts with law-breaking temp agencies

While the Ontario government is conducting an ambitious review of the Employment Standards and Labour Relations acts, its own backyard appears to be in disarray. This week, it was exposed that millions of government dollars are being spent on workers from temporary employment agencies. More egregious is that some of these agencies have been found guilty of breaking employment laws by none other than the Ontario government.

While the efforts undertaken by the government to review and improve current worker protection laws are important and welcome, it should follow the same standards for its own employment practices.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=9056dbcc5e&e=8484a6ba75][Ontario government spent millions on contracts with law-breaking temp agencies]]

New stats show pressing need for national public child care

New research from Statistics Canada shows a dramatic shift in the working and home lives of families with children, exposing the desperate need for a national system of public child care in Canada. Since 1976, there has been a 77% increase in the number of families with two parents working – bringing up the percentage of dual-earner families with children to 75%.

Much of the Conservative response to child care has been to provide tax saving measures on an individual basis, and introduce poorly considered income-splitting schemes instead of creating a sustainable system from which all Canadians can benefit. There is a need to radically reorient our vision to ensure that the children or working parents are able to receive quality care, regardless of income.

More: Study: Employment patterns of families with children, 1976 to 2014

“ELSEWHERE”

Social construction of race in the United States

In Jacobin Magazine, Brian Jones argues that using one’s skin colour for both political oppression and emancipation has been unique to the United States of America. The 115 year history of this social construction in the US may explain why a legal definition identifying someone who has white skin exists, but not for other races.

When commentators, teachers, and progressive-minded people state that race is a social construction, they are referring to the fact that race has been created by a compilation of legal opinions and social norms. However, as soon as white skin colour became linked to political outcomes, people focused on challenging their exclusion from opportunities due to their perceived non-whiteness. This has resulted in a uniquely racist legal system.

More: The Social Construction of Race

The way forward for universal access to internet is through public ownership

Access to the internet should, arguably, be a right for everyone. That includes people living in rural areas, in low-income neighborhoods and in other regions where giant telecommunications companies are not interested in providing high-speed access.

An interesting fight is shaping up in the United States. An increasing number of states are caving to pressure from powerful telecom monopolies like AT&T, Comcast, and T-Mobile – corporations who have more concern for their profit margins than for their commitments to the public. These companies have been pushing for laws that make it all but impossible for municipalities to establish their own, and in many cases faster and more affordable, internet service.

This fight has its roots in legal commitments several cable and telecommunications companies made previously. In return for commercial monopoly rights in many parts of the country, these corporations promised to roll-out high speed access to millions of Americans … a promise that many have not kept.

As a result, some municipalities have taken it upon themselves to make wifi as publicly available as possible – recognizing that it is a challenge for any citizen to navigate today’s world without being able to plug-in. Many cities own local electricity distribution companies that provide most of the infrastructure to offer cheap, non-profit, ultra-fast internet to residents.

More: How States Are Fighting to Keep Towns From Offering Their Own Broadband

More: 22 years after Verizon fiber promise, millions have only DSL or wireless

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=e53a2b5f64&e=8484a6ba75][Nearly half of Canada’s lowest income earners don’t have broadband access]]

The road to fair trade is long and bumpy

Sadly, the victory for working people against the off-shoring of quality jobs by the Obama government was short-lived. Big business made a coordinated attack following last week’s vote that stopped free trade “Fast-track” authority. Across the country coordinated efforts – emergency meetings, arm-twisting, campaign financing promises, kick-backs – were launched to do anything and everything to reverse votes and get the support needed to push through the latest round of international free trade agreements. The fight for transparency and democracy in trade now depends on the hope that members of the public and unions will be strong enough to discipline those lawmakers who went against the wishes of their non-corporate constituents.

More: ‘Fast-track’ trade bill passes US Senate and awaits Obama nod

More: AFL-CIO page on trade

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