Labour’s fate and revival in the US and Canada

This week, two labour historians talk about their new books on Canadian and US workers’ movements in the 20th century, books which offer important and practical lessons for unions today.

First up, I speak with Barry Eidlin, Assistant Professor of Sociology at McGill University, about his just-published book, Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada. The book seeks to explain the divergence between the Canadian and US labour movements since the 1960s and we discuss everything from the recent Janus decision to how the US labour law regime obscures the fundamental power imbalances in the workplace to how Canadian unions still need internal revival despite their (somewhat) better position.

Next, I talk with Christo Aivalis, Postdoctoral Fellow in History at the University of Toronto, about his book, The Constant Liberal: Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Organized Labour and the Canadian Social Democratic Left. The title speaks for itself but the relationship between Trudeau and labour foreshadows how neoliberalism would be implemented in Canada in later decades and holds lessons for how labour should orient politically as well as fight Trudeau the younger today.

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What do we do when we Fight for $15

On this episode, three guests provide some perspective on the politics and the economics of the Fight for $15. First, I speak with Jonathan Rosenblum, campaign director at the first Fight for $15 at SeaTac Airport, just outside Seattle, Washington. Workers there won an immediate raise to $15 via a municipal ordinance in 2015. Jon is also an author and has recently published Beyond 15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement. Next, I move closer to home and talk to Sheila Block, economist at the Ontario office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Sheila lays out the context for the $15 and Fairness campaign in Ontario, one of changing work and a weaker labour movement. Rounding out the show, economics writer and researcher Nathan Tankus returns to the podcast to discuss the economic arguments in favour of raising the minimum wage. We go beyond the narrow issue of  minimum wages to broader challenges to “textbook economics.”

As always, remember to subscribe above to get new episodes as they appear, rate the show on iTunes and donate to help keep this good thing going. Thanks!

 

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Pension tensions and power privatization

Two guests today: Kevin Skerrett on the changing way pensions function today and Sheila Block the impending privatization of Hydro One in Ontario. Sadly, the two are linked: large pension funds are increasingly active in privatizations. My first guest, Kevin Skerrett, is a pension researcher at the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Don’t let the word pensions scare you off, this is a conversation that gets to the heart of how workers relate to the market and to each other in a changing neoliberal economy. See this article by Kevin and the linked videos of a speaker series for more.

From pensions, the episode moves to privatization with my second guest, Sheila Block. Sheila is the Senior Economist at the Ontario office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We spoke about the impending privatization of Hydro One in Ontario, a cynical and financially senseless sell-off of an important public asset. Sheila’s recent article on the topic is here.

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CLC Convention 2014 fall-out

 

This week’s convention of the Canadian Labour Congress was more eventful than it has been in some time. There was a change of leadership and an energy palpable even from afar via social media. Of course, four days of convention does not a labour movement make and so today I’ve gathered together three guests to sum up what the convention means in the context of broader labour trends, for young worker and for grassroots organizing.

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