When Democracy Is Self-Serving It Is No Longer Worthy of the Name

Alberta workers have noted that no legislation allows "individual Albertans" to withhold a portion of their taxes if they do not support government actions which they may deem not to be "legitimate" government activities or which they may oppose. The anti-worker vitriol of the Kenney government is such that it claims the right to prohibit any discussion in the society that does not follow its reactionary party line. Those who oppose the Kenney party line and suggest another direction for the economy that would be better than the insecurity of a resource-based crisis-ridden one are made persona non grata.

Jason Copping, Kenney's Minister of Labour and Immigration confessed on July 8, during second reading of Bill 132 in the legislature, that the state will attack any organization that opposes his party's line on resource development as the only direction for the economy. Copping said:

"Our government also made a commitment in our platform to protect workers from being forced to fund political activities and causes without explicit opt-in approval. Bill 32 delivers on that promise. Some national unions have used their workers' dues to actively campaign against Albertans, their jobs, and our foundational industries. For example, Unifor launched a lawsuit against the Northern Gateway pipeline despite representing oil sands workers in northern Alberta. Mr. Speaker, we support individual workers' rights, and we are following through with our campaign promise to protect workers, restore balance, and strengthen democracy. Now, Bill 32 does not change the ability to campaign for causes; it simply confirms that a worker's explicit approval is required if they choose to support political activities with their union dues. This does not change the status quo for how unions collect their core union dues in order to represent their members."

Copping supposedly supports individual rights but not if those rights are expressed in a workers' collective. A collective of workers is a relation among individuals and between individuals and their collective. The individuals in the collective have the right to work out this relation without interference. Is this not an expression of democracy in action? The government's legislative attack on workers and their unions is an attack on their democratic right to fashion their own collectives without interference.

Copping confesses that his government does not agree with Unifor so it will use its legislative powers to attack unions, and not just Unifor but all unions, unless of course they side with the government and its direction for the province and economy.

The government attack on workers' rights is not happening in a vacuum. The government has its sword out for all who may be critical of its direction. The Kenney government recently passed the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, which criminalizes people that the government declares have blocked, damaged or entered without reason any "essential infrastructure" such as pipelines, rail lines, highways, oil sites, electrical lines, or "any other thing prescribed by the regulations." These people can face hefty fines and jail sentences. The explicit target of that legislation is environmental activists, Indigenous nations, local communities and anyone else who expresses opposition to projects they consider are in violation of their rights and against the public interest.

With Bill 32, workers and their unions are the targets of increased state interference in their affairs. The law will interfere with the collection of union dues and dictate how the union’s money is used. Copping confesses that the government wants to stop discussion and prevent unions from waging campaigns they may deem to be in the workers' and public interest. This includes those defending their rights and those demanding a stop to paying the rich and for increased investments in social programs. Others under the gun may want legislative protections for workers' health and safety and guarantees of security for injured and unemployed workers; many want to see the affirmation of hereditary and treaty rights of Indigenous peoples and the humanization of the social and natural environment. The Kenney government considers all of this objectionable and a violation of the rights and privileges of the rich that his government upholds.

Workers' campaigns are often adopted by workers participating in union conventions and meetings. Copping says each "worker's explicit approval is required if they choose to support" the union and its campaigns or not. Without workers' individual "explicit approval" the union will be starved of part of its members' dues. Does the Kenney/Copping duo have the "explicit approval" of individual Albertans for its campaigns and actions?

The world is far more complicated than what Kenney or Copping would admit. The world is not pro this and con that. The world needs more collectives that think for themselves and decide on how to spend their money without state interference and what direction the economy and country need to defend the people from recurring crises and to open a path forward.

No to State Interference in Workers' Organizations!

This article was published in

Number 51 - July 30, 2020

Article Link:
When Democracy Is Self-Serving It Is No Longer Worthy of the Name - George Allen


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