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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Matthew Lau: When corporations bully, unions provide the muscle

In a new publication to mark International Youth Day earlier this month, the Canadian Labour Congress painted a grim picture for workers today, and in particular, young workers. The economy is on a fast track to being a polluted unequal capitalist dystopia, according to Big Labour’s biggest alliance. Yet, salvation is possible — but only by strengthening the labour movement.

The congress says what Canada desperately needs is more and stronger unions to champion workers’ rights and protect young workers from what “a massive consolidation of corporate power.” While decrying excessive corporate power makes sense, it is a bizarre position for the Canadian Labour Congress to take. In reality, there is no greater enabler of unfair corporate power than the labour movement itself.

Think of it this way: If Burger King hired goons to forcibly bully McDonald’s franchisees into not opening new locations and competing for Burger King’s customers, we would rightly decry Burger King’s unfair corporate power. But the Canadian Labour Congress supports the same principle, by opposing free trade and calling for the government to protect Canadian corporations in certain industries by forcibly blocking competitors. What screams “a massive consolidation of corporate power” louder than the use (or rather, the abuse) of the coercive power of the state to protect corporations from competition?

In addition to campaigning for protectionism, Big Labour also supports the expansion of corporate welfare. For example, Unifor, Canada’s biggest private-sector union, is loudly calling for the federal government to “invest” in Bombardier. So, even while it claims to oppose the “massive consolidation of corporate power,” here’s the labour movement absolving corporations of the need to stay competitive, and capitalized, by effectively serving their consumers...

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