The Sound of Different Drummers

April 1 st 1991

Far from representing all Canadian "labour," Canada's mainline unions (mostly bundled into the Canadian Labour Congress) often do not even represent their own members. This is particularly true when these unions venture into all manner of causes that have nothing to do with the direct concerns of unions. The reason for unions' straying into many non-work related areas is their left-wing political bias, that is, the assumption that all (trade union) issues are essentially political and need state intervention.

However, once in a while, some courageous trade unionist will dare to speak up and protest the unions' pretentions to be speaking on behalf of all their members on matters about which there exist a great variety of opinions. A few such instances of independent thinking have recently come to light and are worth noting.

  • Richard Cowle, a member of the CAW Local 222 in Oshawa, describes himself as an "ex-NDPer." He was responding to the CAW's campaign against Canada's involvement in the Gulf war and expressed his indignation in the Toronto Sun:
    I would like to clarify that Bob White, Audrey McLaughlin and all the other politicians with their heads stuck in the sand do not speak for the majority of working people here on the shop floor.

    I am appalled that these self-appointed saviors (albeit elected officials) speak out against our troops gallantly fighting to ensure the very freedoms that allow them a platform for their unpatriotic positions.

    How Dare They!

  • Brenda Ferguson is a public school teacher in Terrace, British Columbia. She had to join the B.C. Teachers' Federation when she began her teaching job, something which she had no problem with until she realized that joining the union meant that she was now counted as someone in favour of abortion. She strongly resented this because she is convinced that abortion is wrong. When urged by the B.C. Teachers' Federation to tell the Prime Minister of her opposition to Canada's involvement in the recent Gulf war and told that "your students count on you to advocate for them," she had had enough. She protested in the local newspaper:
    How dare they! How dare they use my membership fees to promote their personal political views. How dare they encourage me to promote these views among my students.

    With the teachers federation saying that teachers are pro-choice and saying that we are against the war in the Gulf, I can't help but wonder if the day is coming when a teacher's political views will determine if he/she will be hired to teach in our public schools. Perhaps that day is already here.

  • Jeff Goodall, a Toronto member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, was equally strong in condemning his union for speaking on behalf of himself in opposition to the Canadian government's support of the Gulf war. As quoted in the Toronto Sun, Goodall strongly objected to what he called "the arrogance and immorality of the NDP and the labor movement in claiming to represent our views and opinions on this and many other issues." He wrote that this was a blatant misrepresentation that undermines the credibility of the union leaders when they speak on legitimate issues which they should be addressing. He described himself as a proud member of CUPE and an elected member of his local board, but he was "not proud of...the disgusting arrogance and presumptuous claims and misrepresentations engaged in by Jeff Rose, Bob White and other so-called 'leaders' of the labor movement." He advised these leaders: "Stick to what you're paid for, and don't claim to speak for me outside of bargaining and workplace representation. And, above all, don't try to tell me what to think."

These few lonely voices of protest are a welcome relief from the monotonous anti-American, anti-government and pacifist propaganda that now readily spews from the mouths of those who pretend to speak for Canadian "labour." As these three independent thinking trade unionists confirm, there are still Canadian workers who can think for themselves and have the courage to speak up. Good for them, and may their numbers increase!

 

Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.

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