What's Left 2015-08-23 Volume 25
Two features this week. A brief agenda for labour law reform & Factory farms bad for animals, bad for people, bad for the planet. Plus, some light summer reading recommendations.
A brief agenda for labour law reform
With the prospect that the Conservatives could lose this federal election and be replaced by a left-wing NDP government, it is important to start considering the legal changes that should be made to better protect Canadian workers. Electing a left-wing government is critical to this agenda, but it merely provides the foundations to achieve meaningful progress in labour law reform. It will be the job of labour unions and community groups to help mobilize the public support necessary to push this agenda forward.
The last ten years of Conservative rule have seen a systematic onslaught against workers. The most egregious attacks have been those attempting to limit the Constitutional rights for workers to express themselves through labour unions that can effectively push back against the corporate-friendly political programme.
While many of these battles have been fought in public and in parliament, some of the most significantly negative changes are before the courts in a series of constitutional challenges. Legislation that imposes collective agreement language (Bill C4 and C59), undermes health and safety protections (Bill C4 & airline safety regulations), is an anti-Constitutional intrusion into union democracy (C377), and supports employer-biased interference with public and private sector union negotiations (Air Canada, Canada Post and rail company back-to-work legislation) all have ongoing or pending legal challenges. C377 and C525 were specifically written to target a union’s ability to represent the will of its members.
But, focusing too much on previous right-wing attacks risks missing a critical opportunity to set the agenda for the next five years. There are many proactive changes to labour legislation that an NDP government should examine. These changes can be broken down into the following three categories. Not all will be possible immediately, or without a larger struggle, but they represent a loose guide for a pro-worker policy agenda.
- Return Constitutionality to federal labour law
This should be the first focus for any new government. Charter and court challenges are not necessary to discern the questionable Constitutionality of many recent changes to federal regulations and labour law. In fact, for laws like C377, constitutional experts are nearly unanimous in judging them unconstitutional. All of this legislation needs to be repealed, not just because it strips workers of their constitutional rights, but because it wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars as these fights wind their way through the courts.
- Bring fairness and balance to federal labour relations and
Laws that undermine worker health, airline safety, food quality, and compromise the impartiality of the state in labour negotiations need to be reversed. Additionally, those that impose punitive or unfair conditions on workers in federal sectors and undermine legally mandated levels of federal services should be repealed completely.While these specific laws may be constitutional, most Canadians do not support them and do not think they are fair.
- Advance a democratic and pro-worker legislative agenda
This step will require broad discussion and action within labour and the government. However, Canada is long overdue for modernized legislation to help protect precarious workers, account for shifts in workforce demographics, and better reflect the type of work being performed.
Employment Insurance should be reformed to protect more workers, include childcare provisions, and support the rights of precarious and contract workers to organize into unions based on local economies. Pension coverage should be expanded so that retirement is not tied to a specific job and workers are guaranteed a minimum living wage.
Socialists should not rest or wait to see whether a new government implements these reforms. Labour and community organizations need to educate, organize and mobilize to push this agenda forward regardless of the election’s outcome. Even if the Conservatives win, being prepared and educated will help guide responses and inspire constructive action.
Come October 20th, the left needs to be ready to present elected officials with concrete and specific ideas for reform that will help advance the labour movement and worker rights.
Factory farms bad for animals, bad for people, bad for the planet
Factory farms have become a fixture in capitalist food production. Capitalists ignore the rights of animals and factory farms use genetic manipulation and oppressive conditions to turn animals into meat, egg and milk producing machines.
As an example, chickens have now been genetically manipulated in such a way that allows for greater poultry production. This is done by shortnening their lifespan, while engineering them to grow bigger, and faster thus doubling their weight every few days. Most chickens are full-grown and slaughtered within six weeks of their birth - less than two months. All the time being force-fed in small 1-square foot cages.
And though these animals suffer such horrific conditions, the impact to the climate is just as shocking. Factory farms produce more pollution in a year than all forms of transportation in the world combined.
Factory farms are part of a large corporate infrastructure whose influence isn’t just felt on farms. Corporate agriculture has a significant influence on government (both through campaign donations and relentless wining and dining), and rural communities (through increased local inequality and land grabbing). Putting a spotlight on widespread animal abuse, land abuse, and worker safety violations is already difficult in most jurisdictions, and the agricultural lobby has gone so far as to convince some US state governments to make it even harder – rendering it illegal to document animal abuse. Even taking a photo from a public road is an indictable offense.
While these laws are now being successfully challenged on constitutional free speech grounds, there is little comfort for the billions of suffering animals raised and slaughtered every year.
More: The Disturbing Ways America Keeps Up With Its Demand for Meat
More: Exposing Abuse on the Factory Farm
\ [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=7c298f168f&e=8484a6ba75][Yanis Varoufakis brands Alexis Tsipras the ‘new De Gaulle' as election gets ugly]]
\ [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=034fb70b3f&e=8484a6ba75][The Greek Plan for Growth & Recovery: Two documents the Ministry of Finance tabled in May and June 2015]]
\ Yanis Varoufakis : “Nous avons trahi la grande majorité du peuple grec !"
\ Harper government spent millions on overseas tar sands advocacy