Category Archives: Labour

The Wealth Gap Widens

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Did anyone benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic?  Billionaires did.

Tobias Lutke is the 40-year old CEO of Ottawa-based e-commerce company Shopify Inc.  He saw his personal wealth rise from $3 billion (U.S.) in March 2020 – to $8.5 billion in August.

Generally, e-commerce flourished during the pandemic as fewer people visited stores.  The poor got poorer, already hurting from the great recession that started prior to the pandemic.  Meanwhile, the rich got richer.

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and CEO of Amazon, has a net worth of $189.4 billion. According to Bloomberg News, Bezos’ fortune has grown by $74 billion since the start of the year.  In just one day in July it jumped $13 billion.

The Walton family, who owns the Walmart empire, gained an extra $25 billion over the past year – the same amount Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zukerberg, saw his wealth climb.  According to Americans for Tax Fairness, the fortunes of U.S. billionaires soared by $434 billion during the pandemic lockdown between mid-March and mid-May.

Canada’s billionaire class is doing well too, thank you very much. The Thomsons, Canada’s richest family who oversee the Tomson Reuters media empire, saw its wealth leap from $31.6 billion in April to $37.7 billion in mid-August.  The Westons, who control the Loblaws supermarket chain, went from $7 billion in April to $8.4 billion today.

An Ipsos survey conducted in April showed that 40 per cent of Canadians under the age of 55 had only one week’s worth or less of savings to cover costs like food or rent if they lost their jobs due to the pandemic. In the U.S., almost 40 million jobs were lost by the end of May. And 40 million Americans could be evicted from their homes by the end of this year if state authorities don’t help.

In Canada, the top one per cent of families hold about 25.6 per cent of the wealth – roughly $3 trillion CDN.

Companies that are prospering are less dependent on large labour forces and are heavily invested in the online world where people work from home. That is one reason why Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – the so-called FAANGS – are seeing revenue climb and increasingly dominate the stock market.

If most of the money is hoarded by a small group of people, the capacity of workers to buy goods and services shrinks.  Steep wealth taxes would put a band aid on this festering sore. Only radical surgery will rid the world of the underlying disease.

— B.W.

The BC NDP Gov’t, Three Years Later

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by Gary Porter

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.

Continue reading The BC NDP Gov’t, Three Years Later

Alberta: Confronting the Monstrosity of Bill 32

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by Victor Goosen

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?

Racism spikes in PSAC

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Sandra Griffith-Bonaparte was, until March 2020, a long-time president of a large local union in the Public Service Alliance of Canada based in the Ottawa area.

Sandra emigrated in 1988 to Canada from her native Grenada in the south-east Caribbean.  She obtained employment in the federal public service and became involved in her union, the Union of National Defense Employees component of the PSAC.  As President of PSAC Local 70607 for 12 years, Sandra’s outstanding dedication to members, and her articulate persona attracted envy and hatred from some white members in her region, especially in recent times when Sandra gained accolades as a union spokesperson and educator on subjects like Black History Month.

Her bigoted opponents, mainly from locals outside her own, could not block Sandra’s path by democratic means.  So, they filed false charges of harassment against her.

Continue reading Racism spikes in PSAC

Let’s Rally for Labour on Labour day!

Let’s Rally for Labour on Labour day!

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Monday Sept 7, at 2:00 pm

At the Vancouver Public Library, Main Branch

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/668076417144640

Socialist Action BC has initiated a Rally to celebrate the people who do everything, make everything, fix everything and transport everything, the workers of Canada. Let’s celebrate the often racialized under paid essential workers. Let’s join together and raise our voices for a better deal and a better world.

All organizations supporting labour, against oppression or fighting climate change are welcome. Bring your own placards and banners, your own leaflets and pamphlets. All organizations can present a speaker. Everyone gets 5 minutes.

THIS IS A SAFE RALLY. PLEASE WEAR A MASK, PLEASE MAINTAIN 2 METRES DISTANCE. Socialist Action will have some spare masks. Contact us at garyporter24@gmail.com, or by text at 2505893650

Let us know if want speaking time.

A Celebration of our strength in unity in a time of pandemic, recession, climate ruin, racist cop attacks, and attacks on our living standards and our democratic rights.