Saturday, December 15, 2012

With Some Ambivalence

In light of the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut yesterday, in some ways it seems manifestly disrespectful to write a regular blog post today. Yet, to become paralyzed with despair over the evil in the world is not the answer either. Far better it is, in my mind, to try to confront and combat the evil that we actually have some possibility of mitigating.

Such is my feeling about the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party's exultancy over so-called right-to-work legislation now in effect in 24 U.S states, Michigan being the most recent jurisdiction to join the fold.

As reported in today's Star,

Tories are eager to follow in the footsteps of Michigan’s anti-union legislation ... and turn Ontario into a right-to-work jurisdiction where workers can opt out of joining unions and paying dues.

The move is near the top of the agenda for the Progressive Conservatives led by Tim Hudak should they be elected come the next general election.

Liberally quoting Christine Elliott, a Tory MPP and the wife of Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Richard Brennan tells us that Ms Elliott is confident that such legislation will be the answer to our economic woes since new businesses [will] pick Ontario because they will have the “flexibility” they need to get the job done without tangling with a unionized workforce.

'Flexiility' is always one of those words that sets my spider-sense atingle, since it is usually a euphemism for lower wages and working conditions. She then goes on to talk about the need for a 'nimble' workforce (spider-sense now on full alert!) so that businesses when they need to adapt to changing conditions in the workplace they have the flexibility to be able to do that.

With an apparently straight face, Ms Elliott avers that taking away the power of unions will result in higher wages “because we will have more businesses locating here. They will do well, they will be able to hire more people and pay higher wages.”

Only those who drink a certain brand of Kool Aid would accept such fatuous assertions without some research. Happily, the American site Media Matters has done the heavy-lifting on the subject, the full report of which I hope you will take some time to read. Its two most salient conclusions, supported by data, not empty rhetoric, are that right-to-work laws lead to lower wages and benefits for workers and that right-to-work" laws have little impact on employment.

As well, for those interested in the quite sordid provenance of the right-to-work movement, The Galloping Beaver has a post and a link that is most enlightening.

But I suppose Ms Elliott and her party of benighted souls are anticipating that people will simply react with Pavlovian salivation rather than reasoned discourse over her twisted version of a worker's 'paradise.'

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