In a recent column in The Financial Post, (April 6, 1992) Bob White, president of the Canadian Automobile Workers union and one of Canada’s most vocal trade unionists, dismissed the opposition of business people to the proposed Ontario labour law reforms as an attack on workers’ rights. He accused them of refusing to share economic power and being indifferent to the wellbeing of children, the poor, and working people. “The Ontario government has demonstrated a commitment to working people. Isn’t it time these employers associations stopped screaming and show a similar concern for the people of this province?”
By contrast, according to White, trade unions are democratic vehicles and the true defenders of workers and all who are dependent on a social safety net. But his claim that unions are democratic rings hollow. In fact, the unions he represents ardently defend compulsory unionism as a central, even indispensable, component of their movement.
“Unions constitute a positive factor in contributing to productivity, workers’ commitment, and stability,” writes White. But by fomenting dissatisfaction and distrust toward the employer, he and his cohorts do the very opposite, often in the name of some Utopian ideal of a socialist (state-directed) society. (Read, for example, the extensive policy document issued by the Canadian Labour Congress, “A New Decade: Our Future,” which presently serves as a discussion guide intended to indoctrinate Canadian workers. In reality this document is a not-so-subtle call for class warfare.)
White writes that it is “time to ratchet down the rhetoric.” It would be helpful if he refrained from wrapping himself in the mantle of social justice while depicting employers (and all other critics of his position) as socially irresponsible and morally inferior. Instead, he claims the moral high ground in his support of the planned labour law reforms, designed to hasten a socialist reconstruction of society.
White’s strident promotion of an us-versus-them ideology is a sure recipe for poisoning the relations between labour and management. It is indeed time for both sides to “ratchet down the rhetoric” and go back to the drawing board.