Saturday, November 26, 2005

Canada's Right Wing Union

And guess who really likes this new right wing book? Rescuing Canada's Right
This week in Comment, WRF Senior Researcher Russ Kuykendall posts a thorough review of the new book by Adam Daifallah and Tasha Kheiriddin, Rescuing Canada's Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution.

Well none other than the research arm of CLAC the Work Research Foundation,

WRF was founded in association with CLAC (Christian Labour Association of Canada), and their parent body the Christian Reformed Church of Canada as an arms length research lobby group promoting its conservative ideology of comprador labour relations, and like CLAC promotes the open shop (right to work) and opposes the Rand Formula.

CLAC continues to urge governments and the industry for reform and more openness in the industry. The objective in these representations is to create full freedom of association for workers and open the industry to different ways of operating. Certainly, a monolithic, one-union model is uncompetitive and unresponsive to the needs of the industry and its workers.

It's founder was the head of CLAC's Research Department. While an independent research foundation, it was and is in effect an extenstion of CLAC's research department.

In 1972, its research department was established to help the union develop its philosophy and to aid representatives in the field. For many years, up until 1997 when he retired, Harry Antonides capably served as the director of CLAC's research and education department.

The Work Research Foundation (WRF) was incorporated and registered as a charitable organization in 1974, with Harry Antonides as the first part-time research director. Antonides argued for a view of work rooted in the European Christian tradition.

In 1983, Antonides launched the WRF Comment, a bimonthly journal devoted to issues of work and public life.

Between 1987 and 1994, Antonides published two books through the Work Research Foundation. Servant or Tyrant? was a collection of papers presented at a joint conference between the Christian Labour Association and the Work Research Foundation, with contributions from Christian luminaries such as Paul Marshall, Michael Novak, and Al Wolters. Servant or Tyrant? explored and analyzed the main trends of contemporary politics, and discussed ways in which Christians can actively preserve and enhance freedom and justice in the political realm. Three Faces of the Law, by Ian Hunter, was based on a series of lectures to the Ottawa Summer School of Biblical and Theological Studies, and critically examined the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its subversion of justice, liberty, and life.

WRF runs a consulting firm which works with CLAC and CLAC organized workplaces like Save On Foods.

The Work Research Foundation embraces a unique, Christian approach to leadership: values-based, relational, and practical. Our partnership with the De Pree Leadership Center promotes the leadership philosophies of Max De Pree, one of North America's highest-profile business leaders. From his lifetime of experience at the Herman Miller furniture company, De Pree pioneered today's discussion on organizational culture, leadership values, intimacy, community and corporate renewal.

The WRF promotes what it calls a Conservative Alternative to Labour Representation which is what CLAC is. Ray Pennings who is a researcher staffer at WRF was a rep for CLAC.

After years of hiding their Conservative politics behind the term Christian values and the open shop the WRF has come out as the political lobby for CLAC and its real agenda of working with the bosses to bust the union movement particularly in Western Canada's volatile Construction industry.

Collective Representation
A Conservative Defence
Author: Ray Pennings

Having independent organizations dedicated to representing workers' concerns is an important good worth promoting, and this reflects a probable point of departure with the thinking of many. Compassionate conservatism may work as a slogan, but the term "compassion" needs to be imbued with meaning if it is to go anywhere.

For eleven years, when asked my occupation I responded "Union Representative." This usually made my conservative political friends and business acquaintances squirm uncomfortably. They knew me well enough to know I advocated a different type of labour relations than the stereotypical adversarial relations that are associated with contemporary unionism. In our discussions, they would usually concede the historical contributions of unions, and often would recognize a business or two that they would not want to work for without union protection. But still, publicly advocating for a positive union role made them uncomfortable. To listen to their conversations, it would seem that the fewer workers that were unionized, the better it would be for everyone.

If we continue to view labour relations as a battle between labour and capital, and collective bargaining is just a protective mechanism available to workers to prevent the abuses of capital power, then all the public can do is pick sides. However, I believe that view is flawed. We should take a broader view of industrial relations. Productive economic activity ought to be viewed as the interaction of physical, human, social and intellectual capital, and our structures to support economic activity ought to recognize and promote the interdependence and common interests of them all.

I would make the case that Canadians must develop a renewed labour relations system that promotes the role of independent work institutions, provides for worker choice between various models of representative institutions that are flexible and provide services suited to the industry, and promotes a broad-based collaboration and partnership in support of shared economic and social goals. To be sure, such a system will also provide opportunity for adversarial-minded unions to represent workers when they are chosen, just as any free economy worthy of the name will have the space for less than ideal employers to form businesses and hire workers.

There is support in the public opinion marketplace for this. Since 1997, the Work Research Foundation has been conducting public opinion surveys monitoring the views of Canadians towards trade unions. In the WRF's most recent survey, conducted by Environics at the end of 2001, the 64% expression of approval for trade unions was at its highest known level since 1961. Still, as with the previous surveys, the questions surrounding various union practices demonstrate very negative assessment of the options available to workers. Workers approve of unions - they recognize that in our shareholder economy - it is important that institutions are available to represent the interests of workers. But when surveying the landscape of available union choices, they disapprove of most options. Canadians are looking for a different kind of unionism, but most of the current providers of labour representation, for reasons of ideology, established practice, and systemic reinforcement, are not ready to provide it.

There is no question that the organization of work, and the institutions that are required for this, will be a significant question in the upcoming decades. How we answer this will go a long way to shaping our economic and social performance. The relevance of the question today is are conservatives going to sit out this discussion, except to wish there were less collective organization, or are they going to involve themselves and shape the debate? The case can be made that worker organizations can promote freedom and choice, participation in institutions, and looking somewhere other than government to solve social problems. Workers and management will be both benefited when they work together for economic efficiency, and working with the laws of economic nature and work rather than against them.

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