Saturday, May 18, 2013

Down With The Blackleg, All Workers Unite

By default, when a labour dispute is on the table, I take the side of the worker until I am convinced otherwise. Maybe it's my humble upbringing, or my experiences in unionized versus non-unionized employment, or an "always on the side of the underdog (because I usually am one)" thing... And of course, lest we forget the union (pun intended) of music and activism, which is where keeners will notice the title of this post is a lyric from a Billy Bragg song.

At the eleventh hour, right as the "May 2-4" weekend, often known as the heaviest-drinking long weekend in Ontario, was about to begin, employees of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) opted not to strike. This fact is more an afterthought to the rest of this entry, which was dreamed up as action was looming, observing the seemingly static paradigm of media bias in labour disputes.

The slant of most, if not all, mainstream media in the pending LCBO strike, was exactly what it always is: pro-corporate and anti-labour. It portrays unionized employees as spoiled, lazy, and unreasonable. The characterization of union workers as "demanding" (versus their generous "offering" employers) shapes the general perception towards work amongst non-unionized employees; the narrative goes, "Everyone else's jobs suck so much that people who are unionized should just be grateful, shut up, and take it in the keester" -- but the difference is, unionized workers actually have the power to stand up against exploitation.

The pro-corporate bias in media is never all that surprising, as mainstream media is funded by, thrives upon, and benefits from, the precise anti-worker ethos that working people have been fighting against for centuries. As an institution of influence on belief, perception, and subsequently practice, media survives on a consumer base that feels powerless. An empowered populus with the ability to say "no," and ask "why?" is a threat to corporate culture and interest. But pitting worker against worker based on union and non-union stripes is the age-old strategy of divide and conquer. Thus, a union that protects and empowers workers with the means to fight for things that all workers deserve, is immediately demonized.

Applause to LCBO employees in using the May 2-4 weekend as a brilliant strategy in negotiation. And though despite the knee-jerk response of many in not realizing beer and wine stores would have remained open, it's nice to be able to spend the weekend drinking Tanqueray and tonic in the grass.

Cheers to you for that!