04/05/2012

What did Unions Ever do for me?

With Brad and the boys getting ready to set labour policy direction by what Saskatchewan Party supporters told them in the doorstep during the last campaign I got thinking how things hard won, can disappear in the blink of an eye.

I noticed a bumper sticker the other day that said, "Unions – The people who brought you the weekend" It made me laugh but, it also got me thinking. What else aside from negotiating contracts, representing members, fighting grievances and keeping an eye out for health and safety, did the union do for you and me lately. 
So, I started to make a list of things we tend to, take for granted.

I thought let’s see;
  • Vacations and vacation pay 
  • Minimum wage laws 
  • overtime pay
  • a five day work week
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Old aged pension benefits
  • Long term disability
  • Stat holiday pay
  • Human rights legislation
  • Workers Compensation
  • Maternity/paternity leave
  • Health and safety rules 
If you ask me, that is pretty good, for a quick, short list. The Aussies did a very funny video about all this.

So, if in the future someone says to you, “What did unions ever do for me?” You can answer, “A hell of a lot buddy. A hell of a lot.”

I know some readers will say “Don’t be nuts. The government gave us those things.”  Don’t be too quick.

You might have noticed lately. Governments don’t generally just hand stuff out to working people. Let me tell you. In each and every case, for each and every one of those benefits. There was a tough, tough fight.

Those benefits were won through collective action – lobbying politicians, in bargaining and on picket lines. Everything we have and now sometimes take for granted,was hard fought for.

The danger today, is that we forget how bloody hard those benefits were to get – and how easily they can be taken away.

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