Next gen­er­a­tion needs to de­mand fair­ness

The Compass - - LABOR DAY - BY LANA PAYNE — Lana Payne has been pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Fed­er­a­tion of Labour since 2008.

We live in a time when the power of multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions and bankers is vir­tu­ally lim­it­less.

When so­cial progress has been re­placed with a re­lent­less race-tothe-bot­tom.

When work­ers, their rights and their unions are un­der im­mense at­tack from gov­ern­ments like the one led by Stephen Harper.

We live in a time when the gains unions have made not just for their mem­bers, but for all work­ers, are more frag­ile than ever.

We live in a time when cor­po­ra­tions like AB Inbev (the global brew­ing com­pany that owns La­batt) pays its CEO and 39 ex­ec­u­tives stun­ning bonuses and salaries — over $1.3 bil­lion in 2012 — while de­mand­ing con­ces­sions and cuts from lo­cal work­ers.

We live in a time when cor­po­ra­tions pres­sure older work­ers to sell out the next gen­er­a­tion.

The mes­sage to young work­ers is clear — ex­pect less.

We live in a time when you are said to be en­ti­tled just be­cause you ex­pect a fam­ily-sup­port­ing job with de­cent ben­e­fits. Yet some­how we are to swal­low that grossly over­paid CEOs de­serve to earn 235 times more than the aver­age worker in Canada.

We live in a time when in­equal­ity grows, threat­en­ing and weak­en­ing our democ­racy; a time when work­ers’ rights and women’s rights have never been un­der such at­tack.

We live in a time when unions have never been more needed.

It is in re­sponse to this that the

Lana Payne is pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Fed­er­a­tion of Labour

Cana­dian Auto Work­ers (CAW) and the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, En­ergy and Paper­work­ers (CEP) unions have de­cided to come to­gether and build a new union, Uni­for. Uni­for will be a pow­er­ful and pro­gres­sive voice for work­ing peo­ple, for women’s equal- ity, for so­cial progress for all.

Af­ter Labour Day week­end, it will be the largest pri­vate sec­tor union in the coun­try, rep­re­sent­ing over 300,000 work­ers in 20 eco­nomic sec­tors.

Its cre­ation is an act of hope; hope that we can once again col­lec­tively achieve eco­nomic and so­cial jus­tice; that we can push for so­cial change and progress; that we can re­sist the race-to-the-bot­tom.

Its cre­ation will be like a match to a blasty bough — a spark, a hope, a cat­a­lyst.

Unions are the sin­gle most im­por­tant coun­ter­bal­ance to cor­po­rate power and greed and to en­sur­ing the wealth from our econ­omy gets shared, rather than hoarded by the rich­est one per cent in so­ci­ety.

In re­cent years, in­equal­ity and cor­po­rate greed have dom­i­nated pub­lic dis­course.

In our own prov­ince, a stag­ger­ing amount of our GDP is si­phoned off into cor­po­rate prof­its — 37 per cent on aver­age since 2007. This is a stag­ger­ing statistic and is con­sid­er­ably more than any other ju­ris­dic­tion in the coun­try — more than dou­ble the national aver­age.

The labour move­ment be­lieves we can do a much bet­ter job of shar­ing our eco­nomic wealth, thus im­prov­ing the lives and liv­ing stan­dards of all cit­i­zens.

Emerg­ing from the de­bate about in­equal­ity and the fact that the vast ma­jor­ity of in­come gains are go­ing to the top one per cent is the ques­tion of what this grow­ing in­equal­ity will mean for the next gen­er­a­tion of work­ers.

For the first time in our his­tory as a prov­ince and a coun­try, the very real ques­tion of whether our chil­dren will do bet­ter than their par­ents is a trou­bling re­flec­tion of the kind of legacy we could be leav­ing : a legacy of gen­er­a­tional in­equity. A gen­er­a­tion that will have to work longer; who face a more pre­car­i­ous labour mar­ket; who will be more un­cer­tain about re­tir­ing in dig­nity; who will carry more debt; and who will be told to lower their ex­pec­ta­tions.

This re­al­ity flies in the face of stun­ning cor­po­rate prof­its and an econ­omy that is pro­duc­ing record wealth.

As a move­ment, we must con­tinue t o re­sist a t ever y turn the de­mand by those who de­sire to crush our legacy of de­cent jobs for the next gen­er­a­tion of work­ers, like La­batt Brew­ery is try­ing to do in St. John’s.

This Labour Day, we cel­e­brate the many gains unions have made in our world. We cel­e­brate our so­cial progress, but only in the con­text of how that so­cial progress is more frag­ile than ever be­fore. How it is be­ing eroded. A re­minder that we must con­tinue to be vig­i­lant in our ef­forts to re­sist the forces that would see th­ese gains turned back.

This Labour Day, we cel­e­brate unions work­ing to­gether to make a dif­fer­ence. We cel­e­brate fair­ness. We cel­e­brate all we have done to help make our prov­ince a bet­ter place, all that we have done to build a bet­ter so­ci­ety — one based on eco­nomic and so­cial jus­tice and equal­ity for all.

On be­half of our ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil, 26 af­fil­i­ated unions, and more than 65,000 mem­bers, I wish you a safe and happy Labour Day!

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