Tuesday, July 26, 2005

This is Class War

The Only Labour Relations between Workers and Bosses is Class War!

"The employing class and the working class have nothing in common."
Preamble to the IWW Constitution

It is time for the Labour Movement in Canada to grow a backbone and JUST SAY NO! to working with or obeying Labour Relations Boards and their rulings.

In Alberta we have recently had rulings against unions, including a ruling on Finning which found that when it outsources its work to the rat union CLAC plant that this did not violate Labour Relations law. The fact that Jim Dinning who hopes to replace Ralph as Premier of Alberta is on the Finning Board probably influenced this decision against the IAMAW whose members are having their jobs contracted out.

A disputes inquiry is being held into the Lakeside Packers strike, effectively ending the strike for 60 days, but with no guarantee of binding arbitration. After the union requested binding arbitration and the Minister of Labour never responded.

For a dozen years, Ralph says his government won't pick winners and losers in the marketplace. Then, late Tuesday, the Klein Tories pick a winner and a loser.

They use the heavy hammer of Big Government and call off a legal strike at Lakeside Packers in Brooks, a walkout slated to commence early yesterday morning.

Winner. Lakeside Packers, a slaughterhouse owned by the world's biggest meat merchant, Tyson Foods of the U.S. of A.

Losers. The employees at Lakeside Packers.

Tyson is happy. Their plant is operating. Reports surface of supervisors telling employees the union is powerless.

Doug is left to calm down his members, more than half are new Canadians and most are from Sudan, fleeing from a full-scale human slaughter by a dictatorship bent on genocide.

They don't understand what is happening. Why is the government in this democratic land not protecting them? They are also angry with the union for not fighting, not realizing the union has no choice with the province playing favourites.

Doug advises them to obey the law and go to work. The union asks Cardinal to address the rank and file. He passes.

Then O'Halloran speaks words no one with any sense of fair play wants to hear.

"I think they screwed us," he says, of the province.

Ralph Screws Workers Calgary Sun Cries Foul

"Where is the government all this time?" Ringe Lual, a trimmer of the plant, said of the lengthy negotiations that led to Wednesday's strike deadline. "Why they step in at [the] last minute? Where are they all this time?"

What a Friend Tysons has in Ralph

Mason urges arbitration to resolve Lakeside dispute
Says appointment of a Disputes Inquiry Board favours Tyson over workers
NDP Opposition Leader Brian Mason today sent a letter to Human Resources and Employment Minister Mike Cardinal condemning the government’s deliberate use of labour legislation to favour Tyson Foods over unionized workers at its Lakeside plant near Brooks.

Government 'dirty tricks' in Lakeside dispute? Would 'impartial umpire' choose sides? Asks AFL

While unions have representatives on the LRB so do the bosses and the government picks who it wants as chair.

In this case the chair is a management lawyer representing the anti-union Construction Industry Merit Shops who have sweetheart contracts with CLAC. He was appointed by the Klein Government after they fired the pro-labour Chair when they didn't like one of his rulings in favour of the union.

There is no fair or level playing field for workers in Alberta labour relations. The game is rigged in favour of the bosses.

The Faces of Labour Relations in AlbertaAUPE President Dan MacLennan and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein chat during the premier’s Klondike Day’s breakfast July 26 on the Legislature grounds in Edmonton. The annual event was attended by thousands of AUPE members. ( they are golf pals too. ep)

And now we have Telus getting support from the Canadian Industrial Labour Relations Board and the Supreme Court of B.C. If this isn't enough to ring the clarion bell of class war I don't know what will.

Telus wins injunction against striking workers
Phone company Telus has won an injunction barring striking union members from blocking access to company premises in British Columbia.
The B.C. Supreme Court granted the injunction Friday, a day after the Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) went on strike."This is a very broad and positive ruling that gives Telus the ability we need to ensure our team members can safely come to work and serve our customers," Audrey Ho, the company's vice-president of legal services, said in a statement Saturday. The decision also bars the TWU from picketing at or near customers' premises, the company said.

New contract implemented by Telus
Labour board doesn't stop unilateral move

A major work stoppage at Telus Corp. entered its second day yesterday as the company went ahead and unilaterally implemented a contract offer that its main union has spurned.
Vancouver-based Telus essentially got the green light to proceed on Thursday evening. That's when the Canada Industrial Relations Board issued a key decision that didn't order the removal of lockout measures introduced in April. This has allowed Telus to continue with plans announced last week to implement the contract yesterday. “It's an endorsement of what we've been going through,” Telus vice-president of corporate affairs Drew McArthur said yesterday. “The CIRB has found that we're well within our rights to take the approach that we have.”

Unions in Canada believe the contract is sacred, they actually believe in contract law. And they abide by it. While the employers know contracts are made to be broken, and will find away around the contract anyway they can.

A hostile legal and regulatory climate explains much of the disjuncture between provincial macroeconomic success, and the ho-hum economic condition of Alberta' workforce. Rules regarding union organising, certification, strikes, and picketing are the toughest in Canada. This is at least as important as the much-vaunted "free enterprise" culture of the province in explaining the low level of unionisation. Alberta's low provincial minimum wage also helps keep wages from getting out of hand.

In this context, economic progress for working people will not descend upon their hands like manna from the free-market heavens. Workers will get what they demand and what they fight for. All of which brings us to the Herald strike.

It's no accident that this bitter strike is occurring in Alberta. The issues being confronted by the strikers will rear their heads across the country, as the Southam chain is restructured and reoriented. Indeed, if the strikers lose, the employees of newspapers elsewhere in Canada can expect to face demands for the elimination of seniority protection and other concessions. Calgary is a great place for Southam's management to test-drive its new policies.

In this sense, then, Alberta's anti-union institutions clearly promote the sorts of bitter conflicts that they are purportedly designed to prevent. A tilted playing field does not stop workers from fighting for their rights; it only makes those struggles more difficult and violent than they need to be. The determination of the Herald strikers is simply more evidence of that historical finding.

The Alberta Disadvantage By Jim Stanford, Parkland Post Winter 2000

But playing on the reformist ideals of the trade union movement, that it is a partner in capitalism, the state and the bosses created Labour Relations Boards and the Labour Relations Industry. A whole new profession for left leaning progressive lawyers and members of the NDP.

It is the Management’s Rights clause, the recognition that Capital dominates the workplace and is the owner of the means of production that solidified the AFL/CIO industrial unions, as the handmaidens of capitalist production in the post war era. Workers Power was now not a revolutionary power to overthrow the capitalist system, but a form of fixed capital to be bargained with for the crumbs of an expanding capitalist system.

The strength of the IWW was its refusal to give up the right to wobble the job, no contract was signed that ever gave up the right to walk off the job over grievances. This development of the Management’s rights clause is key to the development of a whole legal, labour industry of paid reps, service or insurance model unions, labour and employer lawyers, mediators, arbitrators, all the functionaries of the state. The growth of the labour law industry and labour relations boards, etc necessitates the unions and management being part of the capitalist state. On the shop floor the post WWIi unions bargained away their members rights for a guaranty of increasing wages and benefits, while at the same time the unions recognized the State as arbitrator of the social contract, one which created a tripartite relationship between the state, capital and labour. This social contract was the realization of the dreams of the second international, social peace replaced class war.

Unions, the State and Capital
Unpublished Paper by Eugene Plawiuk, 2003

By giving up the right to take direct action on the job, that is to 'wobble' the job over grievances, leads unions into the morass of labour relations games.

The idea of eliminating the management rights clause in collective agreements was raised not by radical syndicalists, but by the outgoing chair of the Industrial Relations Society in the UK in the 1990's.

A learned judge he saw management's rights as the clause which not only limits union’s abilities to represent their members but restricts union members from getting immediate satisfaction over their grievances. There is no level playing field for workers with collective agreements that allow for management rights and for a grievance arbitration procedure.

There is no justice in the courts or the labour relations tribunals. They are there to enforce LAW AND ORDER. To make sure production is not disrupted by strikes. Even short two hour strikes that would resolve an immediate grievance on the shop floor.

They exist to limit, restrict and make illegal direct action by workers. And to have our unions sit on these boards, and play tripartite footsie with the bosses is what drives workers mad, as in angry. Cause we always lose.

Alberta Workers Angry at Government and Union

The process of grievance arbitration is long and drawn out, and can take years to resolve. And if it is a case of being unjustly fired from a job, the cash you get will be far less than the non-union worker who can take the issue to court under common law as constructive dismissal and get a settlement for more money faster.

Business Unions act on behalf of the company, not on behalf of their members. They promise to make their workers tow the line; they act as agents of Law and Order on the shop floor. What’s good for GM is good for CAW.

It is only when workers strike and run their own strike committees, can workers take power over their lives and away from the union hacks.

Canfor workers back on the job in Prince George after wildcat strike

A case in point is the Lakeside Packers strike, the workers were ready to strike, but were stopped not by a government order but by the capitulation of their well paid UFCW union boss Doug O'Hallaron. Cause he didn't want to go to jail.

Doug is a deal maker, he wants a contract, he wants a deal, he's looking after his and UFCW's best interests. Yep but both he and UFCW don't care about their members interests. Because whatever happens they have a pool of dues paying members who fatten their bank accounts.

To what end? Well to buy a million dollar house as a retirement gift to their outgoing International President as they did in the 1990's.

You'd think with all their money and lawyers, UFCW and O'Halloran would have the guts to challenge an unfair anti-worker ruling on behalf of the folks who pay his lucrative salary. Nope, not a chance.

You would think that the labour movement, that so called house of labour would organize their members to join mass pickets during strikes. Instead they make a toke show on the picket line.

'Good turnout' includes support from B.C. and local unions

To really shut down Telus, right now would take thousands of workers marching the picket line in solidarity with TWU workers.

And is this likely to happen? Nope. Most unions are lucky to mobilize two or three well paid reps to attend the picket line. And they always have excuses. After all its summer time and the union reps are off on paid vacation leave.


The other excuse is that the strike is strictly the union’s affair. This is the biggest crock of BS ever. The strike is the weapon of the class; it is the fundamental tool of class war. Even the bosses know this. For a strike can be the match that lights the prairie fire of the General Strike. When a union wins a strike it is a victory for all working people when they lose it is a defeat for all working people. As Jim Stanford points out in the quote above, the Herald strike which was lost, was not just a loss for workers at the Calgary Herald, but for newspaper workers across the country.

A case in point is when UFCW struck Safeway’s in the early part of the 1990's they accepted a roll back in wages in particular for first time employees . UFCW is no small union, they are one of the largest private sector unions in Alberta and their acceptance of a roll back contract impacted the whole labour movement in the province.

Loblaws, a Canadian grocery and retail chain, opened Real Canadian Super Stores (RCSS) in Canada several years ago. RCSS combines food and discount retail under one roof, paying wages that are typical of the discount retail industry, as do Supercenters in the United States. RCSS entered the market in Alberta in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Safeway has been the primary unionized supermarket in Alberta for years, and Safeway wages in Alberta were considerably higher than RCSS. By the early 1990s, competition with the lower labor-cost RCSS began to have a dramatically negative impact on Safeway profits.

Safeway executives estimated that the wage gap between their employees and RCSS workers was between $8.00 and $12.00 per hour in Canadian dollars.10 In 1993, Safeway concluded it could no longer compete without drastically cutting pay and benefits. Management presented employees with two choices – either Safeway would cut its losses and leave the Alberta market, or cut pay and benefits by the equivalent of $5.00 per hour (Canadian). Eventually, the unionized employees agreed to the pay and benefit cuts. Safeway implemented the pay cuts both by reducing pay and benefits and by buying out the contracts of 4,000 experienced employees and replacing those workers with persons earning approximately $6.00 per hour with no benefits.11 In 1997, Safeway employees went on strike in an effort to restore wage and benefit concessions that were part of the 1993 agreement. The strike ended without the union regaining the wage and benefit concessions that were part of the 1993 agreement.

The Impact of Big Box Grocers on Southern California: Jobs, Wages, and Municipal Finances
Examples Of The Labor Market Impact Of Wage Differentials – Cases From Canada

This allowed the Klein government to use this as an excuse to bring in wage roll backs for public sector workers. Klein cleverly pitted private sector workers against public sector workers, saying that what was happening at Safeways should apply across the province. He also had the NDP government in Ontario to use as an example of another provincial government trying to get public sector unions to accept roll backs.

Another case is when UFCW led their worker’s out on strike at Gainers, instead of occupying the plant, and demanding the plant be put under workers and farmer control. Since it was originally owned by the Alberta government. But it had been sold off to Burns, owned by Tory bagman Arthur E. Childes, at a fire sale price. Burns then sold it to Maple Leaf foods. Even the leadership of the Alberta Federation of Labour at the time called for the workers to occupy the plant. But that was never the plan anyways, because UFCW and Maple Leaf had other plans. UFCW came to a sweetheart arrangement with Maple Leaf to sacrifice Gainers in Edmonton and another Plant in Burlington if Maple Leaf Foods would open a new plant and hire its members in Brandon Manitoba.

All this was done under the leadership of Doug O'Halloran who speaks not in the interests of the workers but in the interests of UFCW Inc. And he cries crocodile tears when the government halts the Lakeside Packers strike. A strike he really didn't want anyways. You see for O'Halloran and UFCW the strike is the threat they use to get a collective agreement. It's all about the collective agreement and the Rand formula, it's never about what’s best for workers that is only incidental. Once UFCW gets a contract it gets dues. No matter how bad or good the contract is for the workers involved it is always good for UFCW Inc.


If the local labour councils and the Federations of Labour as well as the CLC is the so called house of labour, then it is a dilapidated slum. The leadership is terrified of losing their jobs. They suffer bureaucratic senility. They will always prefer the backroom deal with the bosses or the government to the idea that this is class war and that the purpose of unions is to overthrow capitalism. They oppose plant occupations because well they are illegal; they oppose the wildcat strike because it's illegal too. But isn't that why we have high priced labour lawyers, to get the leadership out of jail. Nope that can't be the real reason either. The reason is that these actions are taken by the rank and file 'out of the control' of the paid reps and leadership. And if such ideas spread, it might lead to, horror of horrors, a General Strike.

Even the most militant leader or leadership in the labour movement accepts their role in upholding Law, Order and Good Government. And once they do, it will always be the workers who get screwed.

The reason is simple workers who do take strike action realize they have given up all to win the fight. Including the fight over the day to day grievances that have usually piled up until the strike. Not so their leadership who see it as just another moment in collective bargaining. This is why workers on the line are always more militant than their union leadership.

Professional union reps and paid hacks are not capable of challenging the bosses or their government cause well they are paid not to. They can't organize the workers who pay their salaries; because they are out of touch with the rank and file. Or worse yet they are opposed to rank and file control because it threatens their job security.

They promote local union executives to political positions in their unions, offering them careers and lucrative jobs as reps, as long as they tow the line. They often take the best and brightest, activists who really care about workers interests and put them into the union machinery to become another cog in the wheel.

If workers organize themselves, the first to attempt to squash them aren't the politicians, or cops, or lawyers, it’s their own union leadership, fearful for their 'jobs'.


The only way this can change is if members of a union mobilize to take back their unions for themselves. To eliminate paid full time representatives who earn $100,000 salaries off the backs of part time workers who get $8.50 an hour.

Replace these reps and union business agents with elected rank and file reps who serve two year terms and are up for staggered election, with their pay and benefits being no more than the highest paid worker on the job.

Rank and File strike committees shall be directly elected by the members. These delegate committees during strikes are the only ones allowed to negotiate with the bosses, not the paid reps or union executive and leadership.

Union locals will have democratically elected executives and committees of members, and any regional, national, or international reps will answer to the local membership.

All union locals must be politically and economically autonomous from their national union.

Locals will not give up the right to strike in collective agreements, and in fact will further enforce this basic right with a further clause that states that members of the local will not cross other workers picket lines.

Unions will not participate in Labour Relations Boards, arbitration or Industrial Relations. Any action taken by the state whether it is an injunction, or attempts at arrest will be met with mass action not only by the union affected but by all unions in the region.

Fines against the union will NOT be paid to the state. If such fines occur it will abrogate the Rand Formula and the union will implement a direct dues collection off the shop floor.

Union locals will be autonomous and form not for profit societies to hold their funds in escrow in order to protect their autonomy.

Union locals will affiliate with whom they please in the labour movement. If their International or National organization fails to adapt to direct member democracy the local has the right to federate with whom it pleases according to a democratic vote of the members.

Union locals will form flying picket squads of all members, to make sure that all strikes or lock outs are kept short and effective. Based on the principle of An Injury to One is and Injury to All, and The Longer the Picket Line, the Shorter the Strike.

All grievances will be solved as quickly as possible on the shop floor, or in the institution where they occur by a meeting of the union steward and management. Should management not resolve the issue, workers have the right to walk off the job until there is a resolution to their satisfaction.

The union has the right to use any and all tactics to solve their grievances, these include the sit down strike, rotating strike, wildcat strike, and plant occupation the use of the standard strike tactic will be reserved as a weapon of last resort. If it is applied the union will mobilize for sympathy strikes, hot cargoing and building a call for a general strike.

These are just a few suggestions on how we can take back our unions from the labour hacks and well heeled, well paid bureaucrats. Who see the labour movement not as a class struggle but as their career opportunity, economically and politically.

A career they make off our backs.


Anonymous said...

Brother Plawiuk,

Seventy years ago unions and union representatives were willing to take more risks because they had a lot less money to lose.

In my opinion strict local union autonomy too often results in management friendly clique rule over fearful union members.


Fellow Worker;
Even in the hey day of the $1 a day wobbly organizers there were those in the labour movement who supplemented their wages with jobs as mutual benefit salesmen. There will always be parasites on the back of the working class, the point however is to limit their power and the potential for abuse by instituting recallable delegates and reps who are elected as CUPW does.
It is not a matter of strict local autonomy as in seperatism, but rather that the locals are part of an authentic member run federation, not like the current federations which are made up of political hacks. As for cliqueism, well that occurs in any union when the members are not involved. The best solution is an activist membership.

Thanks for reading and for your comments.

hou said...

They are also angry with the union for not fighting, not realizing the union has no choice with the province playing favourites.
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