improving the world because you are young and you have the most to lose with a rapidly decaying planet,
Then, read this paragraph. It comes from a document you should ponder endorsing.
If the paragraph is intriguing to you, click the link, read the rest and consider endorsing it!
Then, join or help form a co-op!
COOPERATE TO TRANSFORM SOCIETY
We, young cooperative leaders and members, believe in the co-operative principles and cooperative values. We believe that the co-operative movement must be at the centre of creating a more sustainable and equal economy. This economy should be built around principles of democracy, social justice and solidarity.
The “precariat” are precarious proletariats. We have too many of them; but fewer in Denmark!
Let’s follow their lead!
What Danish fast food workers have that their American counterparts do not is a powerful union, and fast food franchise owners who are willing to make a little less of a profit, though they still do make a profit. Denmark is also a much smaller country, with a higher cost of living and a huge social safety net. And yes, a fast food burger is a little more expensive in Denmark than here in America.
Martin Drescher, the general manager of HMSHost Denmark, the airport restaurants operator, told the Times: “We have to acknowledge it’s more expensive to operate. But we can still make money out of it — and McDonald’s does, too. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be in Denmark.”
He also said: “The company doesn’t get as much profit, but the profit is shared a little differently. We don’t want there to be a big difference between the richest and poorest, because poor people would just get really poor. We don’t want people living on the streets. If that happens, we consider that we as a society have failed.”
In Stephen Harper’s Canada, we keep enumerating the things we’re losing: meaningful legislative debate, evidence-based policy, public science, a free and open society, among other things. But what happens if we go too long with a slow erosion of the features that make our society vibrant? What happens if we let the right wing continue to teach us that we shouldn’t expect anything meaningful from government?
What happens if young Canadians grow up without a sense of what used to be the Canadian birthright: Medicare, the CPP, and a free and robust education system, for instance?
Many Americans suffer from this syndrome of unknown unknowns. They may have heard about Canada’s amazing healthcare system, but they don’t really know what they’re missing.
Many Americans have been convinced that some faceless Orwellian bureaucrats from Health Canada constantly interfere with my doctor’s ability to decide if I need liquid nitrogen on my warts, some kind of invasive prostate exam, or cancer treatment.
Ironically, it’s Americans who suffer from faceless Orwellian bureaucrats who work for for-profit health insurance companies, companies that actually do interfere with those decisions. Canadian clinicians make decisions based on health considerations. Period.
But many Americans have been misinformed, which is part of the reason why Michael Moore’s 2007 movie, Sicko, was such a revelation for so many. People simply didn’t know what they didn’t know: healthcare is a human right and can be provided sustainably, without profit-mongering.
But let’s not be so self-righteous as to think that we’ve got it all together. In BC for example, 13 years of Liberal governments have decimated funding for public education, inspiring wealthy parents to seek private school options. That’s stealth privatization.
Now we have a whole generation of students who, compared to previous generations and to most of the rest of Canada, have been educated in a public system starved of investment. They don’t know that it used to be so much better. They have what urban theorist Jane Jacobs called mass amnesia.
LABOUR’S UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS
I continually write about how unions need to more effectively and meaningfully embrace a mindset of social unionism. But one of labour’s unknown unknowns is that too many of our millions of members, and many of our staff, don’t understand our own history: they don’t know that for eight generations unions have played a central role in creating a society with more justice for all. So it is incumbent on us to provide education about why paying union dues is an investment in a better society, not a deduction to be resented.
That need to provide education goes along with labour’s need to more effectively engage our members and help mobilize them to protect union rights in Canada.
HOW THE BROADBENT INSTITUTE HELPS US FILL THE GAP
We’ve also been unaware that we’re missing a particular kind of organization that can support all this work: The emergence of the Broadbent Institute makes that clear.
Despite its namesake, the institute is a non-partisan organization that seeks progressive change because “a majority of Canadians favour progressive policies — and they are looking for new tools to build the Canada we want.”
One of the Broadbent Institute’s key functions is to provide space and convene people so they can develop more effective progressive action — an activity that happens too little in our busy labour organizations, and another necessity we often don’t know we need.
I’ve watched the institute since its inception in 2011, when it first opened its doors in Ottawa. In June of 2014, it launched an event in BC.
The Vancouver inaugural event brought together close to 300 people from progressive groups, unions, political parties and more to connect with each other and to hear from Ana Maria Archila, an inspiring, Colombian-born New York leader of the Center for Popular Democracy, who used community organizing to mobilize immigrant voters in New York.
Archila spoke about how to de-silo our issues and engage with other progressive groups to build movements. I took away three core lessons:
1. We need to meet people where they live, play and gather. We cannot expect them to come to where we are. They don’t. That’s why they haven’t come to us in the past. The key to effective organizing is listening to people’s stories and truths and building from a place of empathy and understanding.
2. Coalition-building means working with people and groups we haven’t worked with in the past, which demands that we get out of our comfort zone.
3. Organizations like unions, with staffing, resources and money, need to better support progressive organizations that are too grassroots to possess these capacities. This is one way we can share and build power.
In talking to people at the Vancouver event, I saw how varied their perspectives are about the roles that the Broadbent Institute can play: It produces research to advance progressive solutions. It has a powerful news and analysis portal, PressProgress.ca, to challenge conservative ideas. And while providing space and convening people, it provides training and focus so we can improve our activist processes and our ability to be intentional in our work.
Ultimately, we didn’t know we needed the Broadbent Institute until it showed up to fill a gap in our work.
This piece first appeared in the Labour Day issue of Our Times labour magazine.
The 1% are claiming we have it out for them; that if we don’t tone down the rhetoric and stop calling them names like “the contemptuous rich,” we might end up starting a class war. But they already know there’s a class war, and it’s been going on for generations. Today, the rich are winning because they have more solidarity than we do. The year 2014 is a battleground and the currency is solidarity. If we don’t start organizing together, quickly, and far more effectively, the contemptuous rich will continue to come out on top.
For centuries, the 1% were the nobility, the aristocrats, the old money, the patriarchy. Then Adam Smith pitched capitalism in his 1776 book Wealth of Nations, and liberated the entrepreneurs to join the blue bloods. Today, every January, corporate and government leaders from around the world – the people who literally rule the world – meet in the winter-wonderland of Davos, Switzerland, to launch the annual World Economic Forum. There, they plan the global agenda. This year’s sexy new idea was advancing “social entrepreneurialism.” That sounds so kumbaya, just like public-private partnerships, but it’s just spin for privatizing social services.
The World Economic Forum is just one of the most recent venues where the global elite show their solidarity with each other, and plan how to maximize shareholder wealth and minimize global social, economic and political equality. Beyond Davos, our rulers have also created a roadmap for undermining the democracy of nations through secret trade agreements like NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and CETA (the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement). These agreements are designed to give right-wing governments the excuse to deregulate industries, privatize public services, and elevate shareholders’ and investors’ “right” to profit above the needs of society.
How does this translate in Harper’s vision of Canada? April Fool’s Day this year marked the end of the 10-year Canada Health Accord and the beginning of a 12-year fiscal plan to cut $36 billion from federal Medicare funding. This manufactured disaster is textbook Shock Doctrine, designed to impair the public health care system in order to drive more demand for private alternatives.
THE RISE OF THE 99%
The Occupy Movement helped us understand the 1% and the 99%. One of the movement’s critical failures, however, was its inability to frame its core message in the face of a hostile corporate media, and a well-coordinated network of police and intelligence service agencies working together to discredit, mock, beat, arrest, and terrorize the Occupiers. The Occupy Movement’s message was, and is, merely equality: a demand for political, social and economic equality, plus, a healthy environment. This simple message manifested itself in dozens of demands, but whose message won? The 1%. After all, they own the guns and the corporate media. But, there is hope for the 99%.
On March 19, for instance, 650 people gathered in the Maritime Labour Centre to formally kickstart the Metro Vancouver Alliance, a solidarity catalyst if there ever was one. Its birth was inspired by the Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing model, active in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia and the UK. The MVA is a coalition of labour, community and faith-based organizations who share common progressive goals.
On April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the Occupy Movement rebooted itself in a worldwide “Wave of Action.” Its goal is a three-month rolling wave of activism at former Occupy sites, designed to reinvigorate the solidarity started in 2011. And there are other solidarity catalysts in Canada, including the Greater Edmonton Alliance.
These coalitions are fantastic, but they risk irrelevance if they can’t evolve to the next level of solidarity. These alliances need to grow more intense, both inwardly and outwardly.
The member groups of progressive coalitions need to find ways of connecting their individual members to better support each other. And the coalitions themselves need to support each other. I believe such an effort at deepening and broadening solidarity has, so far, been lacking. Meanwhile, the 1% are deeply well-connected, from community chambers of commerce right up to the World Trade Organization. They’re all spouting the same spin and rhetoric on their members’ behalf, while we, the 99%, can often not get past “letterhead coalitions,” a term introduced to me by Amanda Tattersall, one of the founders of the Sydney Alliance in Australia. What good is it to have a coalition when the extent of union, or faith, or community organization activity is merely a letter of support?
We need to seed more alliances in Canada. And we need to help union members themselves understand why unions matter. Labour campaigns like these can only help: the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) campaign, Together FAIRNESS WORKS; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) campaign, Unite for Fairness; and the National Union of Public And General Employees (NUPGE) campaign, All Together Now.
We need to then connect union members with social change coalitions, like Occupy Version 2 and the upcoming Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa (August 21 to 24). Our window is opening again. It’s time to leap through and convene the big gatherings.
This piece originally appeared in Our Times magazine.
We will meet in Grandview Park on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territories.
615pm is the start time, though honestly, I’ll be there a bit early. With my Occupy Vancouver sign taped to my hockey stick. In some convenient part of the park, since there will be a May Day march arriving there for a rally at the same time.
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Every day, four Canadians will die as a result of a workplace accident, injury or industrial disease. If you make it home from work today, you are one of the lucky ones.
Statistically speaking, 1000 Canadian workers die annually as a result of workplace fatalities. This number is unacceptably high, despite Canada having some of the best health and safety laws in the world.
Employers continue to fail to ensure:
That their workers are safe on the job-site, with the right tools for the right job in the right place;
That workers have received adequate training and resources to equip them for the jobs they are being asked to do;
Advise workers that they have the right to refuse to work in conditions that they (or others) perceive to be unsafe;
That accidents are reported, investigated and prevented from re-occurring.
In many Canadian jurisdictions, the ongoing monitoring of labour and safety standards continues to be cut back. So called “voluntary” industry compliance programs increasingly take their place. Canada can, and should do much better to ensure the enforcement of occupational and environmental health and safety regulations.
April 28th is the National Day of Morning (Jour National De Deuil). On this day, take pause from your workday to remember those who have lost their lives on the job, or as a result of occupational disease. It is a designated day to honour the families left behind, and contemplate action to demand safer work environments. It is a daunting task in the wake of the ongoing growth of industry and construction in our nation.
Enough is enough.
It is time to enforce the law and bring employers who are negligent and dangerous to justice.
What can be done to reverse this trend?
Provinces and territories can appoint special prosecutors to lay charges against employers when their actions cause serious death, disease or injury.
Implement and enact new regulations that deal with known dangers in the workplace (violence, exposure to toxins/carcinogens, repetitive stress injuries, poor ergonomics, workplace harassment, stress) to ensure their prevention.
Hire more inspectors to ensure compliance.
All accidents are preventable. Don’t become a statistic. Come home safely.
I just know that none of us want THOSE PEOPLE trying to solve these problems since, frankly, they are the ones who created them. And I have a suspicion that their solutions will look more like a Kafka or Huxley or Orwell novel than we’re interested in.
So I think it’s time to meet. Here are the details:
By the way, if you were keeping track, the World Economic Forum rules the world. They’re the richest corporations in the world getting together with governments to plan the world. And why not, they’re the elite.
And it turns out, since you’re keeping track, that Occupy has been quite successful. How successful?
Simple. Check this out, from the WEF’s recent document called Global Risks 2014, page 13.
Occupy is all about justice and equality, politically, socially, economically and environmentally. Since we’ve convinced the World Bank and IMF that grotesque inequality is trouble, the WEF has now acknowledged it’s one of the major risks of 2014. And I dare say, beyond!
Income inequality, the fiscal crisis, under/unemployment, water, income disparity, ignoring climate change and extreme weather, food crises, political corruption, financial instability and socio-political crises?
When parents receive letters from their kids’ school asking for donations for playground upgrades or library books or technological devices, a certain segment of the population sighs, grows a few more grey hairs and dies a little bit inside.
Parents who are struggling financially cannot afford the luxury of even a tax-deductible donation to the school their children attend.
Sometimes, parents are confused. Don’t we pay taxes? Aren’t taxes structured in such a way that those who are more well-off shoulder a bit more of a burden for social services than the poor and struggling? That’s called a progressive tax system, but it is hated in our neoliberal era of tax cuts, austerity, privatization and social service cuts. The BC Liberal Party hates the poor and has been bashing them for most of this century.
But these are often just abstract policy debates. The reality is that there are real families, tens of thousands of them in BC, and real children who suffer and are often ashamed, too ashamed to trot out their poverty at school.