It is time for all Canadian unions to politicize in a synergistic manner. By actively participating in the political process unions, and by extension the working-class members that they represent, will have a say in the legislation, policies, and governmental initiatives that will affect every aspect of their being”?both on and off the job. They can also act as a light in the dark for the unorganized sectors of the labour market and the unemployed, educating those voters as to where they should cast their ballots in order to better their lots in life. Union non-partisanship contributes to the political diffusion of the working-class as a whole and the resultant political weakness of said class in society. Wage and salary earners and the unemployed make up the largest segment of Canadian society and if properly educated they could potentially take political control of any province or the entire country. Unions, as the only prominent examples of working-class organization, must take the lead in this regard, as no other group has the organizational or financial means to do so.
Merely encouraging the working-class to vote for the candidates of existing political parties will not be enough to turn the tide for the working class. New political parties need to be founded to represent the wage and salary earners (the CCF and its successor the NDP have always been a conglomeration of competing social groups that lead to schizophrenic indecision and internecine divisions). The working-class electorate needs to be reeducated to the fact that, as humans, there are many facets to our personal needs and desires such as ecology, women’s issues, ethnic minority issues, welfare issues, gay/lesbian issues, etc. If the members of all of those groups were to look at their income, chances are that they depend on a bi-weekly cheque in order to survive. If that is the case, then they are members, or potential members (in the case of the unemployed) of the wage and salary earning class. These people must subordinate their many other facets to that fact and vote as a block for a party that would place first on their priority the quality, quantity and security of jobs in a responsible and pluralistic manner if they ever hope to better the voting strategy of the right-wing upper classes at the polls.
Nothing should elicit more pity from enlightened workers as a fellow wage and salary earner espousing the rhetoric of his or her master, such as the oft heard “Unions did have their place once, but with all the labour laws and standards, why do we need them [now]?” Nothing could make a multinational corporate executive or her right-wing politician bed-mate smile more broadly than to hear a subjugated servant echoing ones own beliefs. The most insidious of manipulations occurs when the manipulated doesn’t even recognize the manipulation. Do you take offence to the terms “master” and “servant”? You should, as Canada’s non-union employment environment is still based on the British master/servant relationship embodied in the contract of service at common law.
The political status quo will only lead workers and their families further down the road of retreat towards a pre-WWII or Dickensian state of affairs. Syndicalism is an unreachable (and undesirable) vision and Canada’s unions can and should be at the forefront of a new political movement uniting all of the wage and salary earners in order for the numerical majority to wrestle political control from the ruling minority. Canadian unions, including those in Quebec, are needed to work within the existing Canadian political structure and to help found these new provincial and federal parties.