Why unions.wdp.2012

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Why unions.wdp.2012

  1. 1. CIHR Workplace Disability Prevention Training Program, 2012 Cathy Walker Former Director Occupational Health and Safety Department Canadian Auto Workers Union
  2. 2. How did the first people on earth make their living?
  3. 3. How did the first people on earth make their living? Hunting and gathering
  4. 4. With certain gender assumptions …
  5. 5. And then how did people maketheir living, starting about 10,000years ago
  6. 6. Agriculture:for the farmers, it’s a tough way tomake a living, and still is
  7. 7. Feudalism: 1,000 years
  8. 8. Quite recently, the economicsystem changed to
  9. 9. Quite recently, the economicsystem changed to capitalism Capitalism went hand in hand with the industrial revolution. When did it start in England?
  10. 10. Quite recently, the economicsystem changed to capitalism Capitalism went hand in hand with the industrial revolution. When did it start in England? About 1760.
  11. 11. We had feudalism much longerthan we have had capitalism But in the 1800’s with the industrial revolution which began in England, factory production became concentrated in cities and peasants became workers Today, this process continues in countries like China The exploitation of factory workers is common to both eras And in response to exploitation, workers band together to fight for their common interests
  12. 12. Capitalism ‘in the raw’ Workers came from the countryside into the cities to find work
  13. 13. Factory owners found women andchildren were cheaper than men
  14. 14. Characteristics of factory workin mid-1800s in England Hours were incredibly long, 6 days a week and 12 hours a day in mines, for example Pay was pitifully low There were no vacations, paid holidays It was incredibly dangerous and caused much occupational disease
  15. 15. It was no surprise that workersorganized to fight back to try toimprove their working conditions Women match workers developed bone cancer in their jaws from phosphorus matches and formed a union in to fight for improvements
  16. 16. On the continent, revolution was in theair in 1848, as workers fought back
  17. 17. In Germany and 50 other countries,including in Latin America, 1848
  18. 18. Inspired by
  19. 19. Worker uprisings led to improved laws  Factories Acts prohibiting child labour, requiring safeguarding of machinery, government inspections  Education Laws requiring school attendance for 5 to 10 year olds  Laws regulating hours of work, requiring days off  In Germany, by 1889, to stave off the fight for socialism, Bismarck brought the workers’ compensation system, health and disability insurance and old-age pensions
  20. 20. Russia, 1905 St. Petersburg uprisings led by workers
  21. 21. Russian Revolution of 1917Once again, workers fought back
  22. 22. Workers and unions in othercountries have also had majoreffects on the political system Poland 1980, strike at Gdansk shipyards led by the Solidarity trade union and Lech Walesa
  23. 23. Led to downfall of Polishgovernment by 1989 andultimately the collapse of theSoviet Union and the Eastern Bloc
  24. 24. Unions have lobbied for, and achievedimprovements for all workers  The weekend  Paid vacations and holidays  Restrictions on excessive hours of work and overtime pay  Equal pay for work of equal value for women  Occupational health and safety laws  Workers’ compensation laws  Pensions for retired workers  Maternity and parental leave  Unemployment insurance  Civil rights and human rights laws
  25. 25. But today, however,Globalization sets the context Privatization De-regulation Free trade WTO 1995 Unfettered capitalism
  26. 26. What about developing countries?
  27. 27. South Africa ended apartheid Were it not for the unions, the strikes and the stay- aways, would apartheid have ended? Nelson Mandela, 1953: We “should fight unreservedly for the recognition of African trade unions and the realization of the principle that everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
  28. 28. South Africa ended apartheid  May 1, 1986 1.5 million black workers stayed away from work  1990 Nelson Mandela released from prison  1994 apartheid finally ended with the election of the ANC
  29. 29. Brazil, well known for strikers Can you name some?
  30. 30. Brazil, well known for strikers
  31. 31. And this one, in 1980
  32. 32. Workers’ Party elected in 2003 President Lula, former head of the CUT, the largest trade union central in Brazil
  33. 33. While achievements have beenmore modest than many wouldhope, there is no question thatthere have been improvementsthat have benefitted ordinarypeople in Brazil.
  34. 34. Worldwide financial crisis of 2008 1 % have come out on top 99% are not doing so well Fightbacks continue with Occupy Wall Street Movement
  35. 35. French general strikes against jobcuts in 2009; 2.5 million people
  36. 36. Greece 2012, general strike to fightEU austerity measures
  37. 37. What effect has the worldwidefinancial crisis had on thedeveloping world? And what are people doing about it?
  38. 38. What about China?
  39. 39. Apple computers
  40. 40. Apple iPad
  41. 41. Who makes all these gadgets?
  42. 42. Foxconn workers in Guangdong,China
  43. 43. Motherboards etc.
  44. 44. Foxconn Enormously profitable Taiwanese company 750,000 workers in China
  45. 45. Most Foxconn factories in SE cities
  46. 46. Most workers have migratedfrom the countryside
  47. 47. Most SE plants Low wages Poor benefits Long hours Forced overtime Monotonous work Strict discipline Called ‘blood and sweat’ shops in China
  48. 48. Foxconn-owned plants areparticularly bad Run like military camps (brow) beaten by security guards if they don’t line up properly
  49. 49. Foxconn workersIn dormitories they may be on different shifts anddon’t have the chance to make friends
  50. 50. Unhappiness has led to utterdespair
  51. 51. In 2010 18 Foxconn workerscommitted suicide  Young men and women in their early twenties
  52. 52. Southern Weekly undercoverreport  Story picked up by rest of media in China and reports were closely followed
  53. 53. Shocked the nation  People were glued to their television sets and newspapers  Foxconn was roundly condemned and many did not attribute the ‘blood and sweat’ shop conditions to Foxconn alone, but abhorred the conditions in so many factories
  54. 54. Foxconn’s response? Put up anti-suicide nets on the dormitories
  55. 55. What to wear at an anti-suiciderally
  56. 56. Workers finally got a 30% -70% wage increase  Not because of the effort of the union in the workplaces because it was a fake union run by relatives of managers; it was public pressure  Not only product knock-offs are fakes
  57. 57. But most workers don’t despair,they fight back Honda auto parts plants workers organized in the summer of 2010 They had been working alongside Japanese workers paid many times (50X) what they received
  58. 58. So they organized and struckfor change & improvements
  59. 59. The parts plants workers stucktogether
  60. 60. Effect of Just-in-time production:shut down the Honda assemblyplants
  61. 61. They received top level support
  62. 62. Premier Wen Jiabao Urged better treatment for the nations vast army of migrant labourers. “Rural migrant workers are the main army of the contemporary Chinese industrial workforce. Our wealth and our tall buildings are all distillations of your hard work and sweat,” Wen told a group of migrant workers in Beijing, the Peoples Daily reported the following day. Wen was the first high ranking official to comment publicly about strikes and the current labour situation. At the end of the meeting, which got top billing on national TV, he said, “The government and all parts of society should treat young migrant workers as they would treat their own children.”
  63. 63. The first Honda partsworkers won 24% wageincrease  Strikes spread to other Honda parts plants and they won 45% increase
  64. 64. In some cases, the “union”roughed up the workers  As Chair of the Guangzhou Trade Union said to us, “These are fake unions”.
  65. 65. And the strikes spreadelsewhere E.g. Tianjin Mitsumi Electric workers
  66. 66. In Guangdong Province alone There were 90 work stoppages to demand wage increases mainly in joint ventures or auto parts and electronics industries of the Pearl River Delta (near Hong Kong)
  67. 67. Foxconn workers in Wuhan, Xboxconsole factory, 300 threatenmass suicide, Jan. 2012
  68. 68. Quit with pay, says Foxconn Mayor of Wuhan talked them out of committing suicide on the following day But when they quit, no pay was forthcoming
  69. 69. Support for strikes? Why now?  Wages have fallen from 17% of total economic output in 1980 to 11% in 2008, creating resentment among workers who feel they are owed a bigger share of China’s new wealth.  At the same time there are many more wealthy people. The gap between rich and poor is as much as the U.S.
  70. 70. Gap between rich and poorenormous
  71. 71. Do we all feel we deserve fairtreatment? Of course And of course workers do too Our societies are democratic with the choice of leadership up to the voters In our homes we decide what to eat, what time to go to bed, what we want to watch on television, what car we want to drive But in the workplace, the employer decides…..
  72. 72. Workplace employers decide Everything, unless their power is eroded by labour laws or by the existence of a union
  73. 73. Workplace employers decide When we arrive at work and when we leave What we do when we are at work If/when we have rest breaks and meal breaks Penalties for violations of any workplace rules that the employer has set Who gets promoted and who does not Who works and who is laid off Who is fired and for what reason
  74. 74. Workplace employers decide How fast we work How much we get paid for our work and how often What our pension is How much vacation we get and how much money we will be paid for vacation Whether we have benefits such as a dental plan
  75. 75. Workplace employers decide If we will be looked after if we are hurt at work Whether we may return to work after an injury What safety precautions are taken to ensure we don’t get hurt What chemicals or other substances are used in the workplace that may harm our health
  76. 76. In short The workplace in a capitalist society is a very undemocratic place So….how can things be changed to erode employers power and give some to workers? The answer is labour laws and organizing a trade union
  77. 77. It’s usually a sense of injustice,unfair treatment or being wronged That brings a union to a workplace Sometimes it’s when people had something that was taken away such as a vacation or pension provision Sometimes it’s seeing a popular person or an older person getting laid off or fired Sometimes it’s when a relative or friend of the employer is promoted while others with no connections are left behind
  78. 78. It’s often poor working conditionsand an unsafe workplace that leadworkers to unions It can be a too fast pace of work in a manufacturing facility It can be plates that are too heavy to lift in a fancy restaurant It can be dangerous chemicals causing illness It can be noise making people deaf It can be dirt, danger and an uncaring attitude by the employer
  79. 79. In order to organize a union in aworkplace in Canada Workers usually contact a union in secret A majority of workers have to sign up into the union by signing a card and paying an initiation fee When a majority has signed, the union applies to the labour relations board for a vote If a majority of workers vote in favour of the union, the union is certified by the government But…..
  80. 80. Employers often Threaten to fire people who join a union And sometimes they do, even though it is illegal Threaten workplace closure if workers vote in the union And occasionally they do (e.g. Wal-Mart, Jonqiere) But in most cases, workers succeed despite employer threats and intimidation
  81. 81. Once organized, the union Works to get a collective agreement at the workplace The collective agreement gives workers: collective rights to fair pay, standard vacations and holidays, benefits, seniority for layoffs and recalls as well as promotions, rights of fair treatment, occupational health and safety rights, rights to return to work if injured, and a grievance procedure to deal with individual complaints of unfair treatment
  82. 82. Unionized workplaces are Safer and healthier Fairer, a place where workers have a sense of dignity and respect
  83. 83. Unionized workplaces have Better pay Longer vacations Pension plans and better pension plans Medical plans (extended health benefits for prescription drugs and extra health treatment) Dental plan
  84. 84. Questions and myths about unions Why are people are forced to join unions and pay dues? We pay taxes to our governments to provide services. When a union is certified in a workplace, the union is legally obliged to represent all workers, whether they are members or not. As a result, all workers must pay dues.
  85. 85. Questions and myths about unions Why are unions only interested in money? In fact, most labour disputes are about much more than pay raises but the media usually only reports the monetary demands
  86. 86. Questions and myths about unions Why do unions go on strike all the time? In fact, collective agreements are settled 95% of the time with no strike.
  87. 87. Questions and myths about unions Unions are too big and powerful In fact, unions are far weaker than corporations. That’s the nature of capitalism. Employers and senior managers continue to see their incomes escalate, especially over the last 30 years, while wages, even for unionized workers have seen little growth. Non-union wages have fallen behind. Corporations continue to receive government tax-breaks and hand-outs.
  88. 88. Questions and myths about unions Haven’t unions outlived their usefulness? Employers, government and the media continue to harp on this theme. But workers in our society still suffer injustice and still suffer mistreatment.
  89. 89. Questions and myths about unions Don’t high wage demands by unions lose jobs in our country? Unions and workers will never win the ‘race to the bottom’. There will always be workers in some other country or part of the country making less. In practice, large corporations make enormous profits by locating in low wage areas. But they still would make fair profits by staying here.
  90. 90. Questions and myths about unions Supporting workers’ rights to achieve higher wages in poor wage areas in our country and in every country will help all workers to improve their standard of living. We need fair trade laws, not ‘free’ trade for corporations to locate wherever they like. Domestic consumption and domestic production make sense, especially when energy for transportation becomes scarcer and environmental consequences are so harmful for energy production.
  91. 91. Why Unions? When people feel a sense of powerlessness or helplessness on their jobs or in their workplaces, many form unions to help resolve their problems.
  92. 92. Small Group Work There will be three groups doing different activities Read through the exercise together and answer the questions in your group. If there’s time, we’ll report back to the whole group.

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