We've been warned. The Harper government's rash interventionism in Air Canada and Canada Post strikes has to be seen as a declaration of a war on organized labour in Canada...
The middle class operates as a buffer against extremism on the Right and the Left. When it functions properly it provides people with hope and security, a vested interest in their society.
The middle class is not homogeneous. There are layers or sub-classes within the class although the distinctions are usually vague. These layers actually strengthen the middle class and make it more resilient to external forces. Organized labour is an essential component of that, overlapping several of these layers. Neutralize organized labour and you greatly weaken the middle class, sapping it of both strength and resilience.
As I wrote yesterday, the right to organize trade unions is specifically acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In signatories to that declaration, Canada included, it is a fundamental human right. You cannot allow people to organize trade unions and deny them the right to strike for that deprives them of their fundamental human right. And that, sadly, is just what Harper seems intent on doing...
In circumstances such as these there is really only one effective response and that is the general strike. Labour walks out, shuts the place down, says "oh no you don't." A general strike in defence of a fundamental human right is not excessive nor unjustified in a truly democratic society.A tangential theme in my research shows a unionised firm changing owners several times in three or four decades. Every new owner resulted fewer workers employed in less secure jobs, until eventually all the workers lost their jobs, and the firm become a management company running its business through subcontractors. I once returned to the blue-collar industrial town I grew up in after multi-year absence. The only way one could find wage employment there was through one of the assortment of temp agencies that had sprung up in the intervening years. There was no job security.
Years and years of neoliberal policies from government, and the slow erosion and sometimes frog-boil coopting of labour and its leadership against themselves, have severely weakened the working class.
Stephen Harper has now demonstrated that he will use legislation to immediately bludgeon any remaining resolve from us. This in turn gives the power to owners and managers in labour negotiations: if we don't like their proposed agreement, Stephen Harper will make us eat it for them.
Every union in the country and the NDP should think real hard on why and how it is they exist. Every person in the country should think real hard on what kind of living standard they'd like for themselves and their children.