Labour News Update, 25 November 2012

CLC, Political Action Conference, March 22-24

The CLC is hosting this National Political Action Conference in Toronto March 22-24,2013 at the Sheraton Centre Hotel. This will be the largest conference the CLC has ever organized and the first National Political Action Conference in our history.

Working with the Canadian Council, the CLC National Political Action Committee, and all the CLC standing committees and working groups, the CLC’s objective is to attract a large and diverse group of the labour movement’s political activists and the next generation of campaigners, organizers, and leaders to this conference. The goal is to have the conference serve as the launching pad for a focused motivational campaign to elevate and advance labour’s issues as vote determining issues, as well as building the next generation of successful union campaigns.

This exciting conference will offer hands-on workshops and will expose activists to the latest modern tools, tactics, and strategies for effective campaigning.

The topics will offer something of value to union locals, labour councils, and national unions alike. A primary goal of this conference is to shape political activists into political organizers so that unions can better utilize their people for their own political work. There are just 1500 spaces at this conference and we expect an unprecedented show of interest – so leaving things to the last minute will likely leave you disappointed.

For more information, visit the Canadian Labour Conference website.

Workers resist Wal Mart: Solidarity, Resistance, and Consumption

“A Show of Determination on Black Friday”

By Alan Maass, Elizabeth Clinton and Natalie Johnson

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year as retailers kick off the holiday season. But this year could begin a new tradition – of Black Friday being the biggest labour protest day of the year.

Workers at the giant retailer Wal-Mart are preparing for walkouts and rallies at as many as 1,000 stores across the country. The actions are part of a wave of strikes and protests that began at several distribution centers in September and then moved on to Wal-Mart stores in October. The rolling walkouts have continued sporadically since, as workers organize for the call made by their OUR Walmart campaign for actions on Black Friday around the country.

The scale of the Black Friday walkouts will vary from store to store, involving smaller or larger groups of workers. Wal-Mart, of course, is nonunion, so the ‘associates’ who answer the call for a strike will do so in protest over grievances about management retaliation, harassment and unsafe conditions – this gives them some protection under U.S. labour laws.

Meanwhile, supporters of the Wal-Mart workers are planning to gather alongside them for rallies, pickets and other actions at the stores – to show their solidarity with this long-awaited challenge to a corporate goliath.

To continue reading, visit Socialist Project for the full article.

Walmart Strikes: Lone Worker Walks Out, Receives Trespass Warning Ahead Of Black Friday

By Dave Jamieson, The Huffington Post

There was an employee walkout at a Walmart Supercenter in St. Cloud, Fla., on Wednesday morning, but even if you were shopping there when it happened you probably would have missed it.

The walkout included just one worker — Vanessa Ferreira, age 59. Ferreira informed her manager publicly Wednesday morning that she was going on strike. The other employees watched her walk out of the store, then went back to doing their jobs.

Within a half hour, Ferreira would be told by police outside that she was trespassing and ordered to leave. She’s worked in the store’s cake department for eight years, and she earns $11.90 an hour, she said.

“I love to decorate cakes,” Ferreira said Wednesday. “That’s my priority — to do my cakes the best I can.”

As much as she loves her job, there’s plenty Ferreira doesn’t like about her employer. According to Ferreira, Walmart’s wages are too low for workers to survive on, and the company keeps too many of its employees on part-time status, leaving them to rely on government assistance to get by.

Click here to continue reading.

Bangladesh factory fire kills 112: Owned by company supplying Wal-Mart, Ikea

At least 112 people were killed in a fire that raced through a garment factory just outside of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, an official said Sunday.

The blaze broke out late Saturday at the eight-story factory operated by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which supplies Walmart and other major retailers in the U.S. and Europe.

An army employee inspects the burnt interior of the factory in Savar. (Andrew Biraj/Reuters)
By Sunday morning, firefighters had recovered 100 bodies, fire department Operations Director Maj. Mohammad Mahbub told The Associated Press. He said another 12 people who had suffered injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire later died at hospitals. The death toll could rise as the search for victims was continuing, he said.

Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed in the fire. The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear, and authorities have ordered an investigation.

Army soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed to help police keep the situation under control as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered at the scene, Mahbub said. He would not say how many people were still missing.

Visit to continue reading.

Solidarity or Exclusion? British Columbia Unions and Chinese Mineworkers

By David Camfield

It’s obvious why HD Mining is hiring workers in China to work at the Murray River Coal Project in Northern BC. Because they are admitted to Canada on work visas under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the company can pay them a lot less than it would have to pay Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

The owners of HD Mining are no doubt thankful that the Tory federal government has been expanding the TFWP, allowing employers in more sectors to bring in migrant workers. This move by Harper & Co. is part of their broader austerity agenda, which includes lowering wages and increasing insecurity among working people.

Officials from the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union (CSWU) have gone to court to try to cancel the company’s authorization to employ Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs). Their rationale is clear. When interviewed on the CBC Radio One program As It Happens on November 21, Mark Olsen, the President of the Bargaining Council of BC Building Trade Unions, argued that Canadian workers should get preference for these mining jobs and that the Chinese workers already in BC should be sent home.

Officials of District Three of the United Steelworkers have put out a leaflet with the same message. Titled “BC Jobs for BC Workers,” it proclaims “Stop the sellout of our province.” The leaflet goes on to ask, “Is this type of future we want for our country? A future where low-paid foreign workers with no rights or protection fill jobs that drive down Canadian standards and allow larger profits for already profitable mining companies?”

This kind of response to the hiring of migrant workers appeals to many people in Canada. Unemployment and the fear of having to look for a job when decent work is getting harder to find are on the minds of many. But this response is dead wrong. It’s also an echo of the racist hostility to Chinese workers that was rampant among workers in BC a century ago.

Visit New Socialist: Webzine to continue reading.

Bill C-377: What’s next?

Privacy commissioner Stoddart raises serious privacy concerns about Bill C-377

Re: Union transparency debated, opinion column, by Chris Vander Doelen, Nov. 12.

Chris Vander Doelen is curiously selective in his Nov. 12 column about the House of Commons Finance Committee hearings into Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. The bill would force every labour organization in Canada, large or small, to report publicly on every financial transaction over $5,000. Vander Doelen tells us that Terrance Oakey of Merit Canada thinks it is a great idea. No doubt he does. Mr. Oakey is a former Conservative staffer and represents Merit Canada, an organization dedicated to eliminating unions from the trades. Vander Doelen fails to mention that Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, appeared at the same committee meeting. She said that Bill C-377, which would require that unions post on a public website for the world to see the name, home address and salary of every employee, would violate Canada’s Privacy Act and that it oversteps its stated purpose. The Canadian Bar Association, which testified in October, said the bill would constitute an invasion of individual privacy, is likely unconstitutional and should be withdrawn. Your readers have a right to know this.

Ken Georgetti,
President, Canadian Labour Congress


CLC website

The legal side of the union dues disclosure dispute

By Judy Van Rhijn

Since British Columbia MP Russell Hiebert tabled the union dues disclosure bill, every politician and commentator with an opinion on Canada’s unique labour structure has taken it as an excuse to air their views. Every topic from mandatory dues to privacy rights has been aired — raising controversy in an area that has been relatively stable and peaceful for the last 40 years. Now lawyers are weighing in on whether this political dispute has any credence in law.

The most obvious dose of legal reality is there is already a legislative requirement for financial disclosure to union members in every jurisdiction in the country. In fact, bill C-377 overleaps provincial jurisdiction by amending the Income Tax Act. The long list of items to be disclosed does not stop at mere financial information but requires identification of the name and address of the payer and payee, the purpose and description and amount of every transaction paid or received over $5,000, as well a record of the percentage of time employees have dedicated to political activities and lobbying activities.

Visit Canadian Lawyer to continue reading.

Labour Journalism Award

The Canadian Media Guild and its parent union, CWA Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Journalists will offer the 2012 CWA Canada / CAJ Award for Excellence in Labour Reporting. The award, now in its second year, will recognize excellence in Canadian journalism completed in the 2012 calendar year in any format on labour issues.

For more information about the CMG and the Labour Journalism Award, visit the CMG website.

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