CUPW right to challenge Tories over back-to-work law
Having a majority government shouldn't mean the right to always have your way, even when you're wrong.
It's something that the Jean Chretien government never learned -- especially with its Hepatitis C shenanigans -- but it's something that the Harper government clearly needs to learn.
Many conservatives would likely be shocked to be told that they should actually support the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in their bid to challenge the Tories' back-to-work legislation in court. They should take it as far as the Supreme Court if they have to.
"This back-to-work legislation was unjust," declared CUPW President Denis Lemelin. "It was the democratic rights of workers that were attacked. There is a fundamental principle here -- the freedom of association."
CUPW isn't right about many things, and certainly not very often. The political activities of the union executive and far-left hardliners -- so often taken in the name of the entire union -- are certainly a big problem for the responsible governance of that union. But that isn't what was at stake with the back-to-work legislation, and anyone who thinks it is has confused the issue entirely.
Many conservatives have mistaken labour unions for their natural enemy. This isn't actually the case.
The labour rights that have made it possible for blue-collar, working-class people in Canada to succeed on their own terms were the result of agitation by labour unions.
Admittedly this was a long time ago, when labour unions were focused entirely on improving the workplace conditions of their workers. Now, many labour unions -- including CUPW -- are more focused on advancing the personal political agendas of their leaders.
Perhaps some Conservatives have concluded that the solution to this is to simply crush the unions outright. This is a mistake.
In cases such as the CUPW back-to-work legislation, it's difficult to escape the conclusion that this is precisely what the Tories have set out to do. It's important to remember that CUPW was not under a general strike when the legislation was introduced, they were locked out by Canada Post.
There is something very wrong with a government that has the power to direct the executives of a crown corporation to end the lockout they imposed instead imposing back-to-work legislation to send postal workers back to the job.
When union leaders note that the government's actions undermine the position of all labour unions in Canada to bargain collectively, they are entirely right. That the government seems so eager to intervene in the Air Canada flight attendants' strike is even more alarming. Air Canada may have been founded as a crown corporation, but it was privatized in 1988.
It seems that there's no limit to how itchy the Harper government's trigger finger has become, and no limit on when and where it's prepared to legislate workers back to work.
CUPW needs to win this court challenge for the benefit of all Canadian workers who have reaped the benefit of responsible collective bargaining. And frankly, this is one time that the Harper government needs to be taught a lesson.