|Liberals undermine economy
Code changes attack fundamental Labour freedoms
The provincial governments proposed changes to the Labour Code tilt the balance in favour of employers, says BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair, by making it harder to organize unions and effectively eliminating the right of teachers and school support workers to strike.
Premier Gordon Campbell is following up on his massive tax cuts for BCs corporations and their millionaire owners with an at-tack on the fundamental freedoms of working people, Sinclair said. This can only lead to more confrontation and undermine our economy.
Sinclair said the Federation is preparing a province-wide campaign to turn back employer demands for even more radical rollbacks in labour law and employment standards.
The attempt to declare education an essential service is unprecedented in Canada and will be unworkable in practice, Sinclair charged. The message to school employers, who have never negotiated an agreement without intervention, is clear: hang tough, your workers cant really strike, and the government will bail you out like it did the health employers.
The repeal of so-called sectoral bargaining means that employers may be able to bargain agreements separate from
BC Provincial Carpenters Union convention
BC Provincial Council President Len Embree, opened the convention by saying he is proud to be part of the struggle to build a democratic, membership-driven and controlled union. He told the delegates he is proud and privileged to be part of that along with you.
He also said he was very disappointed to see union members names attached to the lawsuit from the International. But, he says, when the case does come to trial, We will have (Canadian International Representative) Jim Smith on the stand. Smith refused to come and be cross examined unless the Council pays his expenses, says Embree. So the Executive Board has decided to do that.
So where does that put us? Where are we going? I know one thing for sure: Were not going back. Were not going back to a structure of appointments and lack of accountability, a lack of membership involvement. How the hell can we ever get out there and fight the CLACs and organize in the unorganized sector if we dont have something that members want to join?
Dave Flynn, handily survived the first electoral challenge to his position as Secretary-Treasurer at this years convention, a job he has held by acclamation since 1991. Flynn easily defeated Harold Steiman from Local 1995 who wouldnt take a public position on the fight for autonomy.
John Davies, President of the Vancouver, New Westminster and Fraser Valley District Council of Carpenters told the delegates they represent a very special group of people (the membership) who bring very special skills and dedication to their work. I am in awe of the people who make up our union...and all they want is some dignity and respect.
Carpenters Convention endorses autonomy resolutions
The 58th annual BC Provincial Council of Carpenters, held April 26-28, 2001in Vancouver, continued the inexorable march to Canadian autonomy by overwhelmingly passing several controversial resolutions reaffirming support for a strong, central, democratic Provincial Council and authorizing the Council to take the necessary steps to seek a resolve in negotiations with the International. The Convention also instructed the Executive Board to strike an advisory committee to look at the composition and financial structure of the British Columbia Provincial Council.
Self-determination - Delegates called on the Canadian Labour Congress to support the right of Canadian workers to pick their own union and determine their own destiny. They insisted that the CLC end the expulsion of the CAW and hold a secret ballot vote of the SEIU members in Ontario to ensure their democratic will is realized.
International solidarity - The convention condemned the 40-year long American economic blockade of Cuba and pledged support for a tool drive and fraternal exchange to aid our Brothers and Sisters in the Cuban construction union. There was strong support for lobbying the government to enact a National Ship-building policy and for opening a dialogue with Latin American unions, especially in their opposition to the School of the Americas that trains military personnel to aid repressive regimes.
Pension-Benefit Plan - The convention stood and cheered the staff of the Benefit and Pension Plans for bearing up under near impossible pressures during the recent pension crisis. They also endorsed creating and enforcing an extensive harassment policy. The Pension Trustees were instructed to hold special-called meetings to inform participants about the Plan and to solicit input and ideas from the membership, a program that was instituted almost immediately.
Policy Manual/data base - Delegates considered that it would be a good idea to finally get a written policy manual under way in concert with the Councils subordinate bodies and adopted a resolution to that effect. A program to develop a membership data base for organizing and communications was also endorsed as well as recognition that the Internet can be used as an effective organizing and communications tool.
Agreement Ratification - Constitutional resolutions calling to enshrine the rights of members to ratify collective agreements were adopted as well as a mechanism for Locals or Councils to disaffiate from the Provincial Council provided that the members so indicate by an informed secret ballot. A mechanism for individual members of a disaffiliated body to stay within the Council jurisdiction was also adopted.
Education/Organizing - The report of the Education Committee,calling for more courses and a Provincial Organizing Conference was endorsed as were resolutions calling for increased funding for member education.
Market Recovery - The negotiating committee was asked to investigate implementing a market recovery program to replace enabling during the next round of negotiations but that in the meantime continue to focus on getting increases to the area frameworks.
Statutory Holidays - The negotiating committee was also asked to seek the reinstatement of the original two statutory holidays of Heritage Day and the Friday preceding Labour Day. Travel time was also discussed with the demand that we accept not less than airfare for our travelling members.
Rehab Plan - There was general support for the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Centre with the demand we negotiate more money for this worthwhile cause. After much discussion, a proposal to look for funding for safety training for our members was adopted. It was also decided to keep health and safety records at the Provincial Council level as well as at the Locals. Industrial Conference
The industrial/school board sector sponsored workshops on Steward Advocacy and Leadership Training and labour Arbitration presented by Capilano College instructors. Pat Haggarty from Local 1928 was elected Vice-President representing Lower Mainland industrial locals and Dave Sewell Local 2106 was elected to represent Industrial/School Board locals in the rest of the province. Some representative resolutions are reprinted online
Convention focuses on union autonomy
Education and organizing high on priority list
Council Comment by Dave Flynn
The delegates attending the 58th Convention of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters, held April 26 to 28, 2001, have set out a lot of work for the Council for the coming year.
As expected, following closely on the heels of our province-wide referendum, the focus of this years convention was the continued pursuit of autonomy from the International. In anticipation of further negotiations with the International, delegates passed a resolution authorizing the Provincial Council to take any necessary steps required to reach a resolve acceptable to the membership in BC (See resolution M-22 ).
The Convention also directed the Council to proceed with a number of other actions that were considered necessary for the establishment of an autonomous union. An advisory committee representing all sectors of the union has been struck to do a comprehensive review of the entire Provincial Council structure, including representation on the Executive Board, the representation to all Provincial Council committees and the finances of the union (composite resolution). The Council was instructed to begin work on the development of a policy manual that would serve as an adjunct to the recently approved Provincial Council Constitution (resolution M-46). Consistent with the members demand for a democratic union, further constitutional amendments approved by the convention would allow any affiliate that holds its own bargaining rights the right to disaffiliate if approved by a secret ballot vote of the membership (resolution K-3). Members of any Locals that voted to disaffiliate would be given six months to join a Local affiliated with the Provincial Council and their membership would be deemed to be continuous (resolution K-5).
Education and organizing were also high on the priority list of this years convention. The Education and Organizing Committees were directed to work together to develop a Provincial Organizing Conference that would take place later this year (see story and notice on the Back Page). This joint committee was also directed to develop workshops, seminars and other programs that would enhance the culture of organizing and unionism within our membership. It is expected that the joint committee will be ready to deliver the Provincial Organizing Conference in November, 2001.
Guest speakers to this years convention included David Podmore of Concert Properties, BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, and George Wason, Secretary of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The delegates gave a particularly warm welcome to Buzz Hargrove, National President of the Canadian Autoworkers, who spoke to them about the history of the CAWs break from their US parent organization, the United Autoworkers. Hargrove said that the struggle for autonomy is taking place all over Canada and he committed to the full support of the CAW to the Carpenters in BC in our fight to protect our members democratic rights.
While some delegates ex-pressed frustration that the fight for autonomy was not moving fast enough, generally, the convention showed solid support for the Provincial Council in our struggle with the International. The message to the leadership was clearcarry on the fight or get out of the way!
The UA and the Boilermakers then filed for an appeal of the Board decision. A hearing was held on their application to appeal on June 15, and a decision is expected shortly. If the application to appeal is denied, the Bargaining Council will proceed with a ratification vote this autumn.
Spotlight on organizing
Back to the Future: Peter McGuire had it right
Jan Noster, Local 1995 Organizer
In the present age there is no hope for the workingman outside of organization. Without a trades union the workmen meets the employer at a great disadvantage .The employer has the advantage of past accumulations, the carpenter has not. Knowing this the employer can wait, while his men without funds have no alternative but to submit. But with organization the case is altered .Then the workman is able to meet the employer on equal terms. No longer helpless and without resources, he has not only his union treasury, but the moneys of sister unions to support him in his demands Peter J. McGuire. Socialist. Founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Founder of the American Federation of Labor.
Organizing & Dispatch bylaws:
Any member, who refuses to aid the Union on an organizing attempt, coerces, intimidates or publicly speaks out against a Union Organizing Campaign, will be subject to charges as per the Constitution. When an application for certification fails, all members working for the employer may be subject to a Special Called Meeting with the appropriate Local Union Executive to determine what/or if any action(s) should be taken. Where a member is working for a non-union employer and the Union certifies the employer, the member shall retain his/her name on the dispatch board for a period of ninety days. After this time the member shall be removed from the dispatch board, if still employed with the company.
While there are no silver bullets to rebuilding our market share and regaining our rightful place at the bargaining table we must have a good set of specifications in order to construct the marketplace that we want in the Lower Mainland. A marketplace where there should be plenty of high paying, good, steady, safe union jobs. It will take a united membership that is active, a membership that has a say in its own affairs, a local union that says to workers everywhere, We will support those who are fighting for the same things we want. This is a start. I am very pleased to say that after much discussion and debate the membership of Local 1995 wholeheartedly adopted these and other significant changes to ways we conduct and grow Local 1995 into the future. Would Peter J Mcquire have supported these bylaws? I think he would have, judging from the aforementioned quote. He would say that this is consistent with our past. To not support these recommendations would send the wrong message to employers and Government.
On another note, we were successful in certifying Northwoods construction, a formerly Toronto based formwork contractor. This contractor employed 18 workers in the construction of the Norrish Creek water waste treatment plant. This could have not been possible without the cooperation of Local 1907 and the support of the workers on the job. The employer dismissed two workers and a settlement was reached on their behalf. We are attempting to reach a first collective agreement.
Bye for now, work safe.
Hargrove pledges CAWs full support for workers independence
Canadian Auto Workers National President Buzz Hargrove told the convention that carpenters have the full support of the CAW in determining our own destiny.
Hargrove said the struggle for autonomy is taking place all over Canada. And what are people looking for, he asked? In every instance that Ive been able to look at its about democracy, its about control, its about being able to say, We are in charge of our own destiny. Our decisions must be respected by those we pay dues to, no matter who it is.
All about autonomyHargrove said its not just the Carpenters Union, Its unions in general. He said its not just the struggle of Canadian workers within international unions; its within national unions and within the national labour movement, and the struggle of workers within that movement, to get recognition. If its a union headquartered in Washington or Pittsburgh, or Ottawa or Vancouver, we have to be responsive to the needs of workers. There has to be more democracy, more openness.
Australians encourage autonomy
The convention heard from two fraternal delegates from the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union in Australia, who both encouraged our struggle for autonomy. George Wason, secretary of the Capital Territory branch of the CFMEU wished us all the best and good luck. Dont hold back; go for it, he said.
Tony Patterson, also from the ACT branch of the CFMEU, said he found it difficult to believe that a separate country with a different government is someone that you have to pay money to. Its ridiculous...if we can help, let us know.
Wason spoke of the political difficulties faced by unions Down Under. He indicated that the rhetoric there was much the same as what the Liberals have been threatening for BC workers.
Wason quoted the Liberal Minister for Labour who got up at a conference of the Business Council of Australia, and said I am on the side of capital, and I am here to protect private property.
But Wason pointed out that things are changing in Australia, largely because of the fightback led by the unions. We were able to remove the Liberal government in the State of Western Australia. Hopefully...November or December this year...well actually be able to replace the national Liberal government with a labour-friendly government.
Wason sits on the board of trustees of his unions pension plan with over $3 billion in assets. He outlined their successful shareholders campaign against the efforts of mining giant Rio Tinto to de-unionize in Australia. The CFMEU, along with the AFL-CIO in America and the TUC in the UK, presented reform resolutions to the companys annual general meeting that got the companys attention. After that, Rio Tinto said, We can talk to you guys. We could do a deal. So, we did talk to them. In fact, we actually successfully re-unionized all the mine sites in Australia.
Wason pointed out that labour must co-operate and work together internationally to use workers capital if we are to succeed in challenging multi-national corporations.
I look forward to working with you guys up here and looking at common issues where we can move not only the union members but also move society to try to create a better society for this Millennium.
Blow bloody gale force
Roger Kennedy tells BC Carpenters and Len Embree that, You are the winds of change.
Roger Kennedy, a rank-and- file working carpenter from Alberta who is spear-heading the fight for one man, one sister with one vote in that province, says he believes that BC Carpenters represent the winds of change for Canada. I hope that the wind blows right through. We are the winds of change and were going to bloody blow gale force! he predicts.
click for full text of Roger Kennedy's speech at Convention
Early Labour Radicalism in Canada:
A National Trend or a Distinctly Western Phenomenon?
This is a winning Bursary Essay from last year by Chelsea Horton, daughter of Michael Horton, Local 506 Shipbuilders, North Vancouver. Chelsea attends SFU where she is studying History with a minor in Latin American Studies. ON THE LEVEL occasionally pub-lishes edited versions of winning essays to illustrate the talent and abilities displayed by bursary applicants.
History is a subjective discipline that reaches far beyond the mere enumeration of dates and facts. While historians integrate concrete evidence into their theories, these theories themselves are continually changing as new evidence is uncovered and brought forth. Influential schools of thought often emerge as proponents of specific theories rally together. Contrasting theories are often pitted against one another, producing stimulating debate. An example is the debate surrounding the nature of Canadian labour movements around the year 1919.
Historian Greg Kealey represents the New Left in his article, 1919: The Canadian Labour Revolt. In his attempt to define Canadian working-class history Kealey argues that the labour movements of 1919 were a national affair. He stresses the uniformity of worker demands across Canada.
David Bercuson, on the other hand, argues in his article, Labour Radicalism and the Western Frontier, 1897-1919, that labour radicalism was in fact unique to the West, and was largely due to a high immigrant population. While neither historian can definitively be deemed correct or incorrect in their analysis, closer examination of the articles helps reveal the persuasiveness of their arguments.
In their attempts to define the nature of labour radicalism in Canada, both historians refer to an emerging class war. Kealey argues that this class war involved workers from across Canada, all demanding change to the capitalist system. Using the 1919 Royal Commission on the Relations of Capital and Labour otherwise known as the Mathers Commission as evidence, Kealey examines the testimonies of workers from east to west. He stresses that the workers themselves explained to commissioners that, The capitalist system could not be reformed, it must be transformed. Production for profit must cease; production for use must begin.1 By showing that workers from cities as distant as Edmonton, Alberta and Amherst, Nova Scotia had similar demands, Kealey attempts to dispel what he calls the myth of regional fermentation.2 While the Mathers Commission is a convincing primary source, Kealey over-relies on it. Diversifying his sources where possible may have strengthened his argument in this regard.
Bercuson too focuses upon the class war in Canadian society, in particular that in the West. While he recognizes that both militancy and unrest were present among eastern and maritime workers, Bercuson focuses on his attempt to prove that labour radicalism was unique to the West. In doing so, he describes the frontier conditions of Western Canada. Bercuson stresses that western industry developed from and was dependent upon a resource-based economy simply because, that was where the resources were.3 These resource-based industries, in particular mining, created different working conditions for western workers. Bercuson describes the patriarchal company towns where many Westerners both worked and resided. They were created and controlled by large companies looking to extract resources, and were established wherever resources could be found. This resulted in isolated and close-knit communities which Bercuson describes as, Pressure-cookers of discontent.4 While it is true that both Kealey and Bercuson examine working-class conditions in Canada, it is perhaps unreasonable to compare or contrast their articles directly. Kealeys article focuses upon specific labour movements in cities across Canada in 1919, while Bercusons writing focuses upon the development of labour radicalism between 1897 and 1919. Bercuson argues that western radicalism began in the company towns and later moved to the cities. Were he writing specifically of the year 1919, he may well have acknowledged more national similarities in urban labour trends, as does Kealey.
Perhaps a more effective comparison than that of rural/urban differences is that of the role of ethnicity or immigrant status in the labour movements. Kealey argues that by 1919 a form of ethnic solidarity had developed in Canada: A Canadian working-class movement which had been swamped with new immigrants from eastern and southern Eu-rope in the pre-war years had matured, coalesced and, to some degree at least, commenced the process of incorporating the new workers into the movement. 5 To illustrate his point, Kealey cites the example of the Toronto meat packing and garment industry strikes which both contained high numbers of ethnic workers. In referring to new Canadian workers such as Finns, Jews, and Ukrainians, Kealey emphasizes that they often had more socialist background than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, and were perhaps more prone to uprisings.
Interestingly, Bercuson presents the contrary argument. He attributes Western Canadas radicalism to its large immigrant population. Unlike Kealey, however, he argues that British, American, and eastern Canadian immigrants initiated this radicalism. Bercuson argues that Anglo-Saxons, drew on a rich heritage of trade unionism and radicalism developed in industrial and/or urban contexts [the British Labour Movement and experiences in western U.S. mining states].6 These experiences were transferred to the western frontier as immigrants were forced to work under poor conditions without fair pay. Bercuson writes that other immigrants such as Italians and Chinese, constituted a conservative element.7 He argues that virtually any conditions were better than those they had left behind in their homelands. Such immigrants would tolerate the conditions of company towns and, later, the cities in which the unskilled were not provided for.
In addition to the nature of immigrants, Bercuson also cites certain demographic features as reasons for increased radicalism in the West. He states, The western mines and mining communities were almost exactly opposite in composition to the mines and mining communities of the East.8 Bercuson combines this data with his argument that liberal immigrants were more prone to uprisings to argue that the West was indeed more radical. While these are valid points, a close examination of Bercusons sources reveals that he included primarily western documentation. The various meeting records, theses, books, and reports that he included served only to prove that radicalism was present in the West; they did not show that radicalism was absent in the East or in the Maritimes.
Another of the articles weaknesses lies in Bercusons attempt to prove that socialism as well as radicalism was concentrated in the West. While he mentions that both the Socialist Party of Canada and the Social Democratic Party had their headquarters in the West, Bercuson provides no statistical evidence proving these parties were large enough to hold any real clout. The problem, again, stems from either a lack of available sources or, perhaps more likely, an overly selective author. It is interesting to note that Bercusons article was written in 1977 while Kealeys was written in 1984. It is possible that new evidence surfaced in the intervening years, and may be a factor in the historians different approaches.
This is a trend which often emerges during historical analysis. Authors tend to omit sources which discredit their theory, and include those that support it. Kealey and Bercuson are no exception.
Kealey concentrates on statistical evidence which proves that many strikes occurred across Canada in 1919, while Bercuson focuses upon western evidence and omits eastern or Maritime evidence which may reveal radical activity nation-wide. The two historians often deal with the same topic, each twisting it to support their argument. An example is the First World War. Kealey remarks, World War 1, a profoundly national experience for Canadians, helped provide part of the cement for this nascent national working-class re-sponse. 9 Bercuson, on the other hand, writes that the war was a factor in the emergence of radicalism in urban areas. He argues that the Great War helped increase western radicalism as it thereafter stemmed from both rural and urban areas.
Perhaps the most important element to consider in this debate is a topic alluded to by Bercuson in the introduction to his article: the definition of radicalism: The dictionary is precise: Radicalism is the quality of being radical, while radical is favoring fundamental or extreme change: specifically, favoring such change of the social structure; very leftist. 10 When viewed in this manner, it could be argued that Kealey and Bercuson are debating topics unsuitable for comparison and contrast. Kealey seeks to prove that labour movements occurred across Canada in 1919. Bercuson does not deny this as he attempts to show that the western labour movements, developing between 1897 and 1919, were uniquely socialist in nature. The articles, 1919: The Canadian Labour Revolt and Labour Radicalism and the Western Industrial Frontier, 1897-1919, examine different time periods and different phenomena. Regardless, both historians make valid arguments. Unfortunately neither theory can be accepted at face value as both Kealey and Bercuson present selective evidence, providing the reader with a biased account. The debate over the Canadian labour movement, therefore, will no doubt continue as new evidence and new theories are brought forth.