Union Bashing and Human Rights

How are union bashers able to get away with inflammatory rhetoric which would  be roundly denounced as extremism and worse if directed to other targets?

Here is an extract from the transcript of Kevin O’Leary’s interview with Heather Hiscox on CBC News Morning (6.52 am on January 10.)  Emphasis added.

“we still have the problems of unions in many sectors, particularly in the automotive—we didn’t take advantage of the meltdown, the financial meltdown to actually crush the unions when we could have. I think unionism is the dearth of business.  It’s a huge uncompetitive advantage (sic), and it just forces capital to go to countries that doesn’t (sic) have unions, because it’s very inefficient, and that’s what’s important.  I think globalization has some benefits.  You may complain that, gee, jobs are leaving North America or Canada because they can go to lower cost places, but it’s not just the employment rate, it’s the terms under which you engage employees.  So if you don’t have to deal with unions, that’s even better.  That’s the one area I think we have more work to do.  In the government sector, we’d love to get rid of unions, automotive sector—get rid of unions.  Just get rid of unions everywhere. They add no value whatsoever.  It’s one of my big causes—I love to get out there and union bash, and you know, frankly, I think it’s a good thing.”

To which Hiscox replied.  “Ok, Kevin’s perspective on this–appreciated as always.”

I wonder if  O’Leary and the CBC which gives him tons of air time are even aware  that his idea of crushing and getting rid of unions amounts to an assault on fundamental human rights.

Freedom of association and the right to free collective bargaining have been enshrined in numerous important international human rights declarations, most notably the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Canada has ratified the legally binding International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 87 on “Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize,” which establishes the right of all workers to form and join unions of their own choosing without prior authorization, and guarantees the free functioning of labour organizations without interference by governments, including the right to engage in free collective bargaining.

On June 8, 2007, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadian workers’ rights to free collective bargaining are constitutionally protected by the freedom of association provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court concluded that free collective bargaining enhances the human dignity, liberty, and autonomy of workers by giving them the opportunity toinfluence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, and also ensures the rule of law in the workplace.


  • this month’s Economist target’s public sector unions and bashes them badly. It is all quite predictable, the question is, what can the labour movement do to such blatant attacks. There is definitely something afoot- more than the usual CFIB attacks. I guess when Obama jumps on the public sector unions, it seems as though the right wingers take that as a sign it is open season.

    Unity and being a whole lot smarter is what I say labour in Canada needs to focus on. We need to stop the complacent and bickering. However, I do realize the bickering is strategically targeted at the cracks.

    Leadership is very important at this time, from the local to the nationals, we need to have a razor sharpness to our leadership that despite all the cracks can use this time of economic instability to advantage, whether it be defending or attacking. But during this time, the one strategic issue that needs to be a focal point is unity. Unity at all cost- this is not a time for internal grievances.

    Preserving and expanding the legalistic framework would be another major area.

    And lastly a well designed and disseminated educational outreach campaign would be timely.

    If the economy double dips that will end this campaign against unions- people are just not that gullible. Truly they are not. You may actually start hearing some of the New Deal talk of expanding the legal framework.

    It took quite a long time after the depression for such pro-union talk to make it into the policy circles.

    However with the recent appointments by Obama, I could be quite wrong. I don’t understand American labour, I will say that. How can they continue to support a guy that beats on the public sector unions?


  • Coincidently, this is on HuffPo today:

    Wages for American workers have fallen dramatically since the financial crisis, in what will likely turn out to be the worst such plunge since the Great Depression, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    When hard times hit, employers typically are reluctant to reduce wages. But this downturn has been different: More than half the workers who found new work by early 2010 after losing jobs between 2007 and 2009 said their pay had dropped, according to Labor Department data cited in the WSJ. A full 36 percent said the new job paid 20 percent less than their former one.

  • It is all quite predictable, the question is, what can the labour movement do to such blatant attacks.

    The first thing that needs to be done is to weaken the hold that corporations have over our media and national discourse. Until that happens we’re fighting a losing battle.

  • Ain’t nothing we can do about this culture. People get their news from the corporate media who exclude our analysis out of their own obvious self-interest, or people get their information from sites and sources they already buy into.

    The best we can do is point to the mainstream media, who like to pat themselves on the back about their “objectivity” what brazen hypocrites they are. Mock them to their faces about their failure to be what they claim to be. Ask if we can get somebody on their programs to bash the financial parasites who not only don’t “add value” but actually cause far greater harm to the economy. Say we’d like to strip them of their power and throw them all out of work.

    One thing’s for sure. The cromagnon attitudes of guys like that, attacking one of the bulwarks of consumer spending power in the midst of a long-term crisis of capitalism, shows that they’ve learned nothing, they understand nothing, and they’re doomed to self-destruct.

    Only thing is, they’ll take us all down with them.

  • Well put, Andrew. It is past time that we stopped giving the CBC a free ride when they step over the line, as CBC TV does very often these days. Flanagan, Cherry, and this guy… it seems to just get worse.

  • Good points as usual, Andrew.
    Taken it up with the CBC Ombudsman?
    How about filing a complaint with the human rights commissions (wherever the broadcast was heard) and claim it’s hate speech?

  • I also agree with Andrew’s points and would support taking them up with the Ombudsman, but think we would look pretty silly arguing to a human-rights commission that it was hate speech.

  • I come out of the CBC where I worked as a producer. Of course the media is pro-business. I’ve sat in enough story meetings to see that there is a lack of awareness of what unions do and why they are essential. So twits like O’Leary get all the airtime. This is where unions and other like minded groups have to step up and start calling or e-mail the people who run these shows – radio and TV. Give them names of the “good talkers” on the left. It does make a difference.

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