Union of Unions: is ‘labour’ organized a little ‘too well’?

This is just a tiny peek at Canadian ‘organized labour’ in particular, though I expect that the results will be similar for many of the ‘developed’ countries – and I am not naive enough not to understand that a supranatural organization of labour unions also exists.

This is only natural:  one just has to look at the nature of people who are drawn to ‘organized labour’ to start with!

These are usually people who are very, very good at ‘organizing’ things – and other people.  So, it is only natural that they would – well – organize themselves, too! And, there is nothing wrong with that:  freedom of association and all that.  Plus, many (perhaps most) of them are motivated by a belief that they are doing right by their members – also a commendable thing!

Where I DO have a problem is that in Canada (and many other places), this very freedom of association – something the labour unions had to fight bitter battles to win a legal right for – is now not respected BY the labour unions themselves…

As in, we have ‘closed shop‘ workplaces (or something practically indistinguishable from it), where every single employee is forced to belong to a specified labour union.  These ‘exclusively union-held’ workplaces are to be found in private industry and – perhaps this is the most troubling aspect – they have a monopoly on all levels of the civil service!  While I am very uncomfortable with all the aspects of this, that is not the topic of this rant.

Instead, I would like to demonstrate that this incredible skill at ‘organizing’, as practiced by labour unions, has – in a very real sense – led to a situation where just about every unionized employee in Canada effectively has to obey just one single boss

Unions arose because there was a need for balance:  as the industrial revolution transformed the ‘Western World’, the employer-employee relationship gave too much power to the employer and not enough to the employee.  Following the age-long adage ‘there is strength in numbers’, people refused to give in to oppression and did something to change it, both in law and in practice.  I suspect that were I living back then, I might well have been proud to be part of this movement!

But, the effects of human actions tend to act a little bit like a pendulum:  if you push hard to correct a wrong, chances are that a really successful ‘push’ will ‘swing the pendulum’ to the opposite extreme… and, with ‘organized labour’, I fear that that is exactly where we are now!  (At least, in the ‘Western world’!)

Now, we have a situation where an employer may not be allowed to hire the best people for a specific job (or, at least, the people the employer wishes to hire), but must have all their employment choices approved by a labour union.  In effect, the Unions in Canada (at the present time) form a layer of management which is NOT under the control of the employer, but whose very existence is predicated on ensuring that there is strife between the employer and the employee (as the ‘raison d’etre’ of the union is to mediate any disputes between the two, ensuring there is plenty of ‘stuff’ to mediate seems only prudent).

As in that story (sorry, I cannot find an online link, but it happened in the 1980s, so there may not be an online copy) where a lady owned a business and wanted to leave it to her grandson in her will.  To make sure that he really knew the business, from the bottom up, she wanted to hire him during his summer holidays in different departments of her company – working in the entry-level jobs of all the departments and getting to know them from the ‘bottom up’!

Frankly, I think this is commendable:  if you intend to leave a company in someone’s hands, it is only responsible that he know all the aspects of its workings!

However, not long before, this lady’s company became unionized.  AND, it was a ‘closed shop’…

And – since the labour union (I don’t know which one was involved) saw the hiring of the owner’s grandson as ‘nepotism’ and something to be opposed, they refused to grant him a memership in the union.  That meant that – whether paid or not – the grandson was not allowed to work at this company…except, perhaps, as the CEO…but he was denied the ability to ‘learn the business’ in order to become an effective manager!

The story ends sadly.  The confrontation between the owner and the labour union did not resolve the situation:  and, rather than be denied the right to hire whom she chose, the owned closed the company – putting everyone out of work.

Yes, it sounds like an urban legend:  still, at the time, it was a big story, covered by the major papers…

I guess what I am trying to say is that while 100+ years ago, the ‘strength’ was with the employers, that is no longer the case.  Now, the ‘strength’ lies with the unions who control BOTH the employer AND the employees, without any accountability to the former and with only a ‘lip-service’ level of accountability to the latter.

That, in my never-hmble-opinion, is a problem!

Because, like it or not – notice it or not – what has happened over the last 100 years (or so) is that individual workers have united to form unions, restoring balance to the ‘equation’:  but, they then went much, much further!  They created ‘unions of unions’ – until now, in Canada, there is one body – the Canadian Labour congress – which controls the vast majority of unionized employees in the land!

From their ‘about’ page:

‘The Canadian Labour Congress brings together Canada’s national and international unions, the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 136 district labour councils.’

‘With roots everywhere in Canada, the labour movement plays a key role…’

‘Active in every aspect of the economic, social and political life of Canadians…’

‘On Parliament Hill, in boardrooms, at international conferences, in media events, in demonstrations or on picket lines, the CLC supports and educates unionists in the fight for strong workplaces, pressures governments for change, builds coalitions with like-minded groups, and strengthens solidarity between workers in Canada and other countries.’

This really does seem to be an organization – perhaps with supranational strings attached – which controls a great deal of what goes on in the daily life of Canadians!

If the CLC were to decide that each one of its members (or the members of its minion organizations) were to go on strike, the whole country would come to a standstill! Industry, government, infrastructure, construction – even entertainment:  all these workers are subject to the whims of the CLC… either directly, or through the labour unions that they belong to – and which all answer to the CLC!

Is this not too much control in the hands of just one group of people – especially a group of people NOT ACCOUNTABLE to Canadians?

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One Response to “Union of Unions: is ‘labour’ organized a little ‘too well’?”

  1. Lieutenant Calculus Says:

    I am reminded of something that I briefly read way several years ago. It centred around the flip side of freedom of association, freedom of dis-association. If memory serves, it ruled that although one has the former right, one does not possess the second in Canada. 😦

    Lt. Calculus


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