Employment Rights – March 16th, 2014

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Know Your Rights16When big businesses continue to make billions in profits even in times of widespread joblessness and governments keep repeating their promises of creating jobs, how can we believe that either of them really want to eliminate unemployment and poverty?

In fact, as Professor David McNally argued, unemployment and poverty are conditions deliberately created and maintained in the economic system we live in, capitalism. In order to maintain their high profits, businesses pay their workers the lowest wages possible, to maintain which they need people to be desperate enough to settle for whatever they are offering. There must always, therefore, be more people looking for work than jobs available.
Despite their claims to the contrary, neither governments nor businesses have any interest in getting rid of unemployment becauseemployment rights workshop this business-friendly, low-wage economy depends on it.

Every little while though, the cheap labour available in Canada is not cheap enough. This is when the gates of the country are opened to immigrants so they can be funneled into the worst jobs. From the use of Chinese workers for the construction of railways in the 1880s to the current use of Latin American temporary migrant workers on farms, Canadian history is rife with examples of immigrants being allowed into the country to work under exploitative conditions to keep wages low for domestic workers. Racism has been very useful in this equation to turn Canadian workers against their migrant counterparts instead of worker solidarity being fostered against government and businesses.

Canadian history, however, also offers examples of when this divide and conquer strategy has not worked so well. In the 1930s the East York Workers Association (EYWA), for example, sought to build solidarity among the working class in this area through education and action. When the sheriff would be sent to evict someone for not being able to pay their rent, a hundred EYWA members would gather in front of the unit to prevent the tenants from being kicked out.

It is necessary to understand the lessons of history, both the brutal and the hopeful ones and collectively figure out an alternative society which is not based on profits but on values of social and economic justice.

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