Without becoming maudlin, it is true that labour unions have largely been responsible for the growth of the middle class in North America. It was those well-paid union members who bought the homes, vehicles, machines and other consumer goods many of them helped to manufacture. Government workers also were organized and had the incomes to keep consumption high and create more jobs.
Unions have been responsible for the increase in living standards of North Americans and for metamorphosing sweatshop conditions into satisfying productive workplaces.
The slow smothering death of the middle class began when Ronald Reagan became U.S. president and started busting the air-traffic controllers union, which led to other anti-union activities and the rise of corporatism in the U.S.
Then he and PM Brian Mulroney created the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that lumped us in with impoverished Mexico and immediately gutted our industries which were packed up and shipped to $10-a-day workers in that Latin American third-world slave nation. Corporations loved it and North American workers went on pogey until it ran out. The U.S. government even paid for American corporations to betray their domestic workers and profiteer on the backs of Mexican workers whose standards of living had no place to go but slightly higher.
The union-busting efforts we see in the State of Wisconsin, headed by a neocon swine of a governor, will no doubt resonate in other states and perhaps in Canadian cities. Toronto will likely be in the forefront with the Rob Ford government rightly seeking to strip the disruptive Amalgamated Transit union of its power to cost the city’s citizens millions of dollars in expenses and lost income while the aggravating transit workers shut down the city.
But Ford has to be careful. The problem isn’t with unions. The problem is with politicians and public servants who aren’t really spending their money when they come to the bargaining table.
Some of the long-serving lefties on Toronto council behaved as if their real constituency were the union-member civil service—many of whom don’t even live here—instead of the real people they are sworn to serve.
Ford was elected to get the government running smoothly and efficiently. With a properly running bureaucracy there’s no reason for things to be mismanaged as happened under the Mel Lastman and David Miller regimes.
Ford wasn’t elected to parcel out city assets to private businesses and add unnecessary costs in the form of profit. He was elected to get things working at city hall using city staff. That’s what management is all about. That’s what we expect Coach Ford to do.
If we need staff changes, make them. What we don’t need is anyone inserting a new level of profit-seekers into the running of the city to which voters have entrusted Ford.