Unions help lift our communities up

It is hard to argue against the benefit that well paid workers provide the community they live in.  Put bluntly, wages earned will determine the ability of an individual to participate in their local economy.   Apart from the obvious benefits to businesses there are all kinds of spin-offs that flow from a community anchored by good paying jobs.  That is the message behind the Canadian Labour Congress’ Union Advantage campaign.

History buffs will know that Henry Ford believed he should pay his employees enough to be able to buy the cars they were building.  Unfortunately, not enough employers recognize the benefit of that ideal.  In addition to that, wages and pensions are being driven down as we try to compete with countries that offer little or no labour rights.  The growing gap between rich and poor in Canada reflects it.   The strong anti-union posturing of the Conservative government show the appetite to extend those circumstances to more Canadians is a top menu item for their corporate friends.

Pushed to an extreme, this would leave us without a strong consumer base and would eventually start chipping away at the service industry jobs that have largely replaced lost manufacturing jobs in Canada.   It doesn’t have to be that way, but a little support from the government – or an end to their all-out war on unions – could help protect those well-paying jobs that remain and maybe find them some company.

Consider that employees who are compensated well enough to feel some economic security are more likely to feel a strong investment in the well-being of their employer.   Those same employees are more likely to be able to buy houses which create more jobs building and servicing them.  By developing strong and sufficient pensions these workers will be economically independent in retirement as well.  Those are important considerations for employers and the communities they operate in.

Add to that the long list of accomplishments that unions have helped bring about like strong health and safety regulations, the 40 hour work week, equal pay for work of equal value and many more.  It is clear there is still a strong role for unions to play Canada as too many workers remain underpaid while the executive class is often overpaid.   The government should be striving to facilitate balance between those interests, yet have fallen in against unionized workers exclusively.  That is neither fair nor forward thinking.

Last year 32% of all jobs in Canada were unionized.  On average in Canada, unionized workers earn almost $5 more an hour than non-union workers.  That adds up to $785.8 million each week across the country.  This is money that gets spent in communities and supports our economy.  It is not a case of theoretical benefit either.  These dollars stick around and help make Canada work.

Happy Labour Day.