Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Progressive Workers Movement

Canadian Workers Demand Canadian Unions

First Published: Progressive Worker Vol. 2, No. 11, September 1966
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Labour struggles erupting over far-flung areas of the nation in recent months lend weight to arguments in support of the policy advocated by Progressive Worker since its inception – Canadian workers need Canadian unions under rank-and-file control. It is an impossible situation for Canadian workers to be “represented” by overpaid and overfed bureaucrats at the head of the United States unions; particularly when those workers are employed by the U.S. monopolists who dominate Canadian industry and whose domestic and foreign policies receive the ardent support of top U.S. union officials. These Yankee unions are also available as vehicles to be used for the smuggling of CIA and FBI agents into Canadian trade unions, thus facilitating U.S. espionage against both the workers and the nation.(This would be an area for governmental investigation more fruitful than the highly overrated and over-publicized Spencer case, especially since the U.S. threat to our political and economic independence is a very real and immediate one.)

Propagandists for the American unions beat the drums loudly about the effectiveness of “big unions” at the bargaining table. But it is such organizations as the Steelworkers, Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters, ITU, Carpenters, etc., who are amongst the biggest and wealthiest unions, yet are experiencing the greatest difficulty in contract negotiations for modest gains at a time when conditions, especially for skilled trader,, are to the advantage of the workers.

Labour struggles are not won by bigness and wealth. If that were true the monopolists, who have a corner on the money market, would win easily every time. Labour victories are obtained through the organized strength and determination of the workers, and it is precisely this element that is missing in the U.S. unions, due to the fact that the bureaucracy has torn their guts out by enforcing a heavy-handed, dictatorial suppression of the rank-and-file.

The “wildcat” strike at Hamilton was not only in defiance of the union leadership, but was actually directed AGAINST them, because of their dismal failure to make any advances and their refusal to take steps in preparation for struggle. The same was true in a similar situation affecting the same Steelworkers union at Sudbury and Port Colborne. In Sudbury, the company announced the intention of taking disciplinary action against rank-and-file leaders, but a threat to renew strike action prevented reprisals. In Hamilton, 36 rank-and-file leaders have been suspended or discharged, but up to time of writing official leaders have managed to head off any further strike threats, thus virtually abandoning these workers-another prime example of tearing the guts out of lie union by co-operating with the boss in weeding out the most militant workers, so rendering the organization less capable of putting up an effective fight.

The IBEW in Vancouver showed real initiative when union officials and international reps not only officiated in the discharge of almost 300 workers at Lenkurt Electric {a division of the U.S, General Telephone), but also initiated into the “union” the 300 strikebreakers who took over the jobs, and conducted the ceremony on company premises.

Teamster officials did their damndest to break the ranks and fighting spirit of Ontario truck-drivers, and failed only because an effective rank-and-file leadership was equal to the occasion and defeated their conspiracy. At Castlegearr, in the southern interior of British Columbia, Teamster officials, who seldom go near the isolated construction site, planed in to uphold the employer in the discharge of 34 workers, did the same for 34 replacements, and remained at the scene ready to call in more replacements if it became necessary.

In the Harmac mill at Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and in several other mills, upwards of 90 per cent of the workers have joined a Canadian union, but are informed it is not a trade union under the Labour Act, so they must continue to pay tribute to and be represented by U.S. unions.

The U.S. unions are being aided by government boards where the “labour” representative who participates in awarding certifications is invariably a member of a United States union and sworn to uphold the interests of such unions over the interests of Canadian unions.

Employers also are in the conspiracy to keep Canadian workers shackled to the “safe” foreign-controlled unions. In the case of the Canadian Ironworkers, whom the Building Trades Council are trying to destroy, the employers avoid, where possible, awarding contracts to companies having agreements with the Canadian union and thus try to starve the workers into being loyal to the Yankee bureaucrats. A tactic which is becoming” more common each year in new construction and newly-opened plants is for the employer to sign a long-term, no-strike contract with the U.S. unions before any workers are hired, and then compelling them to join the chosen union by making membership a condition of employment.

The propaganda being broadcast by certain so-called “radicals,” to the effect that the employer is out to destroy the established unions, therefore we must unite to defend them and their leadership, is so much hogwash designed to confuse. The employers have the present leadership fitted snugly into their pocket, and depend on them to keep the workers in line. It would be stupid of the employers to destroy these “safe” organizations and take an unnecessary chance on what might develop out of the fluid situation that would follow.

The dismal failure of the unions as presently constituted and led in a period that is not particularly unfavourable, especially for the skilled trades, is a warning of their critical ineffectiveness for times of stress. In the event of a crisis and growing unemployment, the present unions and their leaders would be totally inadequate and would render the workers virtually unarmed at a time of fire necessity. We must take action now to change and improve the situation. Canadian unions, rank-and-file control and expansion of the organization to embrace the low-paid, unorganized millions is imperative if we are to head off disaster in a period of crisis which will surely come. The time to act is NOW!