Monday, December 19, 2011

The Decline of Organized Labour and How its Current Trajectory Can Be Reversed

A case study in the Canadian telecommunications sector

By Sid Shniad
Labour/Le Travail
Spring 2010

There is an apocryphal story that Mahatma Gandhi was once asked what he thought about Western Civilization. He is said to have responded that it would be a good idea. That is pretty much my view of the labour movement today: despite decades of being on the receiving end of ferocious attacks from corporations and governments, organized labour is not functioning like a movement at all. The experience of unions in the communications sector provides a startling illustration of the prevailing situation, showing that even though unions have faced staggering challenges over the last 25 years, they have not made a serious effort to come to grips with the destructive, anti-social forces that are arrayed against them. Instead of responding as a movement, they have chosen to function as individual, isolated organizations and have been picked off one by one as a result.

Due to the particular conditions that prevailed in the telecommunications sector for much of the post-war era, workers who laboured there enjoyed a relatively privileged existence. Employed by highly regulated private and public monopolies, they earned wages that were superior to those of other organized workers and their job security allowed them to retire with decent pensions after a lifetime on the job. But this comfortable relationship began to unravel with the 1984 break-up of the AT&T company in the US, an event that proved to be the opening salvo in a series of massive changes that have rocked the sector ever since.

Read more HERE (pdf).

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