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RADIA: Battles won, it’s time to revamp
Monday, of course, is Labour Day in Canada. It’s meant to be a day to celebrate workers’ rights and to reflect upon the sacrifices of those before us who helped enshrine safety, fairness and dignity in the workplace.
I will, indeed, reflect upon our forefathers who fought for fair hours, fair wages and safe working conditions back at the peak of the industrial age.
But you know what? These things are all legislated now, making unions a little bit redundant.
I know my colleague opposite will wax poetically about how important unions are for the middle class and to ensure a strong economy.
But it’s not just me who is saying that unions are losing their relevance around world. The workers of the world are saying it loud and clear with their feet.
QMI Agency’s Eric Duhaime, who has written a couple of books about unions, notes that the rate of unionized workers has dropped from 50% to 26% in the U.K., 22% to 11% in the U.S. and 18% to 7.5% in France.
He says that “the new knowledge economy” necessitates fewer unions.
Unions are also losing their steam in this country, too.
According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, since the 1970s, Canadians have been walking away from union shops in droves. In the private sector, for example, union membership peaked in the 1970s, and has now fallen by about half to 17% or fewer than one in five workers.
Public sector unions are still pretty strong but it’s laughable to think that they help buoy a middle class — by artificially raising salaries, they take tax dollars out of the middle class’ pockets.
Public opinion about unions is also changing.
According to a report by Forum Research released last year, only 50% of Canadians agree that unions have made a positive contribution to their lifestyle. Moreover, the majority of Canadians (57%) agree that the government should legislate striking employees back to work when airlines, railroads or the post office are involved.
To be clear, I’m not saying all unions should be disbanded. I’m just saying that they need to modernize: Stop resisting right-to-work legislation and allow for more parity with the private sector.
Happy Labour Day!