Conrad Black, Lord of
Coleman Federal Correctional Complex Crossharbour pens an op-ed – Public sector unions are a blight on our society. Yes, I’m a public sector worker who belongs to a union, but I think any who have the stomach to read this work of fiction will find that it is top to bottom filled with that intoxicating combination of chutzpah and delusion. One could weigh in, for example, on this passage…
Collective bargaining is a defiance of the free market, which is efficient and meritocratically fair.
…and comment that written by a wannabe aristocrat who also happened to have been born into a wealthy family and thus by accident of chance a recipient of advantages most do not share – and a man who thought himself so meritorious he helped himself to a little bit extra from the corporate accounts this is…silly. One could mention also that the market is not “meritocratically fair”. Wealth begats wealth. Social mobility – the ability of those born in lower income levels to rise to higher ones (and vice versa) – is lowest in the two advanced economies that have embraced so-called “free markets” the most: The United States and the United Kingdom.
Or one could mention that the teachers whom he labels as sloven philistines seem to perform quite well, thank you very much:
Canadian students are among the top performers in the world, according to an international educational survey of half a million 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries.
Etc. But it’s this statement by Black that really caught my attention:
During the 20th century, as government legislation progressively equalized the rights of the worker with those of the employer, unions became surplus to the requirements of the employed person.
It caught my attention because the above was written on the anniversary of this:
127 years ago today, the Governor of Wisconsin ordered the National Guard to fire upon a crowd of 14,000 workers who had gathered for one simple demand: that their workday be shortened to only 8 hours of physical labor. Seven people died that day and several more were injured in what would come to be known as the Bay View Massacre.
Over the course of the week, there would be several more demonstrations around the country in places like New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati. The battle over the 8 hour workday would last another 30 years and cost many more lives. But, their sacrifice bought us more time to spend with our families and to live our lives our way.
An American example, true. But government didn’t “legislate equalized rights of the worker” out of kindness in Canada either.
The rights workers both public and private sector enjoy today were fought for, and won by, unions. And paid for all to often in blood.
These rights the Conrad Blacks and Stephen Harpers would very much like to roll back.