Welcome to a new season of Socialist Action – Canada Webcasts:
Thursday, September 10, 7 p.m. Is there a Magic Money Tree? with Radhika Desai, Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba, and discussants Yasin Kaya in Toronto and Gary Porter in Victoria, B.C. Watch here: https://youtu.be/wS6_5IfsI4s
For more information, including links to past webcasts and other videos, go regularly to: http://www.socialistaction.ca For answers to your specific questions, and/or to join Socialist Action, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Natural gas is a major problem. It is primarily methane (CH4), a hydrocarbon and a greenhouse gas (GHG). But not any old greenhouse gas. Methane traps 80 times more heat than CO2. It is a mighty contributor to global warming. Although it burns cleaner than oil, after fracking, piping, compressing, shipping and distributing methane, with leaks impossible to eliminate at every step, methane is as dirty as coal.
The New Democratic Party remains the only mass labour-based political party in North America. In Canada, the NDP is the only party with affiliated unions. All the other parties are simply capitalist parties, which – whatever else they advocate – defend the capitalist system of exploitation, oppression, war and pandemic – a system that puts private profit before human needs, even ahead of human survival. Represented by the NDP are the organized workers who have the social power to bring the capitalist system to its knees. For this critical reason, socialists who are serious about change through workers’ power give critical support to the NDP.
Both the trade union and NDP leadership, however, refuse to mobilize the power of the working class. Long since, they have grown accustomed to an upper middle-class lifestyle of relative privilege. Their job, under capitalism, is to keep the workers, Indigenous people, women and youths, gender and sexually-oppressed folks in check.
Union leaders do this by claiming to ‘win’ gains by relying on their bargaining skills with the bosses, not by mobilizing the real power of workers in strikes and mass protest actions. In fact, during 40 years of neoliberalism, union bureaucrats have negotiated concessions to the bosses, not victories.
The United Conservative Party of Alberta has a new plan to save the economy. Like an Alt-right superhero the UCP seems to think that by swooping in to foster low-paying, no-benefits, barely sustainable jobs, it can do the trick. The truth is that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is more akin to a super villain.
The UCP portrays the legislation of the previous NDP Government as job killing. While downplaying the earlier crash of oil prices, Kenny blames NDP policy on workers’ rights as the problem. Meanwhile, the UPC sinks billions into a foreign-owned oil pipeline, and slashes programs that would have brought good new technology opportunities to Alberta.
Bill 32 is omnibus legislation that makes changes to six different labor relations laws at once. It is driven almost entirely on the backs of hardworking Albertans, delivering to the rich donors and friends of the current government tax kickbacks while destroying environmental legislation that stands in their path to potential private profits.
The United Conservative Party brags about how this legislation will save corporate “job creators” an estimated $100 million annually by reducing “red tape”, also known as minimum labor standards. Theirs is an exercise in reducing workers’ rights and increasing part-time, no-quality-of-life minimum wage jobs. It is likely that there is worse to come in the next provincial legislative session.
Bill 32 is obnoxiously named the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act. Balance, really? Alberta currently has some of the lowest labor standards in Canada! Workers’ rights should be enhanced rather than clawed back.
The man in charge of this monstrosity is the Minister of RED Tape Reduction, MLA Grant Hunter. His mandate as Minister appears to be making businesses profitable no matter who gets hurt.
The one bone the UCP tossed to labour is the clarification that employees continue to accrue vacation time on a job- protected leave. But when one is a part-time employee barely scraping by, talk of vacation time is moot.
This bill goes hand in hand with the sweeping Bill 1 which makes it virtually illegal to protest anywhere in Alberta — from the highways and pipelines, right down to the alleys and ditches. Now it is also illegal to conduct a legal strike in Alberta if it inhibits business in any way — essentially stifling the voice of workers in the work place.
Bill 32 crafters claim to be “creating simpler and more flexible rules for general holiday pay, group terminations, and payment of final earnings upon termination”. Whom do you suppose that provision will serve? Is it for the working class, or for the corporate owners who would love the ability to lay-off or fire at a whim, and rehire at a lower wage? It is absolutely not for the worker who is scrambling to make ends meet.
The Alberta government has declared war on the working class. The only recourse for workers is to fight back with escalating protest actions, including a general strike in Alberta. If the UCP government succeeds, other provinces may try to impose similar draconian measures. Every worker in Canada is threatened if this law is allowed to stand.
Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labor, puts it this way: “Many people remember the famous western, ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.’ Well, if Bill 32 was a movie it would be called ‘The Bad, the Even Worse, and the Unconstitutional’.”
The question is: What will the AFL and the Alberta NDP do about it?
This article was written by Bethany Morris, a content writer for the Immigration Advice Service; a team of immigration lawyers based in the US & UK
In response to the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, Black Lives Matter protests have continued across the globe, highlighting the injustices, prejudice and mistreatment of Black citizens at the hands of the police. As this racism continues to be unearthed, the movement’s focus has shifted to the prison industrial complex in the US, and how people of colour are exploited to generate profit for those who run them.
The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is a term used to describe the mass incarceration and corporatisation of prisons which, in some places, now have a diminished focus on rehabilitation and a sharper focus on generating profit. In the US, privatisation and mass incarceration drive profit; the largest private prison company in the world, CoreCivic, recorded a share rise of 40% when President Trump was elected.
Black citizens are disproportionately impacted by the corporatisation of the prison industrial complex. This has stemmed primarily from Richard Nixon’s ‘War on Drugs’ which, under the guise of protecting American citizens, has allowed the police to harass and arrest people merely under the suspicion of possessing drugs. This destroyed Black communities in America in the 1970s with many finding themselves wrongly accused and targeted by police simply for the colour of their skin. The war on drugs went hand in hand with mass incarceration and police brutality too, with the number of those incarcerated rising from 300,000 to the current figure of 2.3 million. Although it has been almost 50 years since the war on drugs was founded, its impact on Black communities has not been left behind.
In the US, it is estimated that $182 billion is spent on incarceration each year, with the majority of this money funding court costs, parole, probation and running of facilities. Current figures suggest that in the US today, around 1.8 million people are behind bars, many of them Black; this dramatic increase in incarceration can be owed to the extreme sentences given to prisoners for non-violent and often minor offences which could be resolved with the use of community service or fines. This has allowed prisons to become labour-intensive institutions, as they provide year-round employment. These are essentially ‘recession-proof’ and provide huge financial boosts to economically depressed regions. For example, the town of Dannemora now has more inmates than inhabitants. The PIC now supplies around $425 million in annual payroll to the area. As the complex continues to grow, the lines between public and private interests have become blurred. A directory named the Corrections Yellow Pages now has over one thousand vendors offering services to the complex, ranging from bullet-resistant security cameras to ‘B.O.S.S.’ or body orifice security scanners. The large-scale corporatisation of the prison system has now increased to include collaboration between Wall Street investment banks, private health care companies and food companies.
As well as being a government service, the PIC has become a big (and booming) business for the states. Privatization has had a huge role to play and since the Clinton administration, private prisons have become increasingly legitimized with thousands of minimum-security inmates placed in private correctional facilities each year. The economics of private prison systems have been likened to the hotel industry; the higher the occupancy rate, the higher the profit margin.
The PIC has huge influence over immigration detention too. Corporate and government interests overlap when it comes to detention, surveillance, the construction of border walls and consulting services. In the US, recent figures indicate that as many as 52,000 people are currently being held in immigration detention facilities. Two-thirds of these facilities are run by private companies such as the GEO group and CoreCivic. The corporate influence on immigration detention has grown significantly, particularly in regard to surveillance; software giants Palantir have signed a $38 million contract with ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) to perform data case management and analytics.
For private prison corporations, the increase in detainees has generated even larger profits. Since the late 1990s, numbers have increased dramatically and on average, ICE detains around 33,000 immigrants, more than tripling since 1996. In 2010, private prison companies CCA and GEO reported annual revenues of $1.69 billion and $1.17 billion. Surprisingly however, in recent years the US has reported some of its lowest numbers of border crossings meaning that for private companies, pressure is increasing to raise the number of those in detention. This means that those who find themselves detained, primarily people of colour, are detained solely for the premise of generating wealth for the private companies who have been outsourced to supply these services.
Although privatisation and mass incarceration are huge issues facing Black citizens in America, they are a threat in the UK too, where the PIC and immigration detention centres are similarly being privatised at an alarming rate. Many countries are now beginning to adopt similar approaches to the US which focus on mass incarceration to drive profit, disproportionately impacting people of colour across the globe. Government services that should be focused on rehabilitation have become centred around the exploitation of the incarcerated solely for the benefit of major corporations.