Labour’s battle for the public mind and the crucial social role of unions

By Rick Salutin | Published August 2, 2013 by rabble.ca

Excerpt:

Why doesn’t the union protest loudly that they’re taxpayers, too? Or that fairness in pay is something anyone who has a job can identify with and support. Plus: higher wages lead to more demand in the economy, therefore more jobs and taxes paid, lowering deficits, etc.

In other words, why don’t they contest the battle for the public mind? I don’t know why but they don’t, or rarely do. They seem to have lost track of that tactic. It went missing in the Ontario teachers conflict this year, too. The unions made little or no effort to explain their case and enlist parents, students and citizens on their side. That left the McGuinty government with the role of defender of the taxpayers. It’s not inevitable. The Chicago teachers’ union laboured for wider support and won their strike with it.

This matters not just because it would be smart for unions. It’s because they, for about a century, have been central to general social improvement. They provided inspiration, resources, organization: without them there would not have been public health care, universal pensions, health and safety laws, the whole panoply of the (now disputed) welfare state. It’s hard to imagine today how central they recently were to the electoral and legislative calculations of all political parties, not just Democrats in the U.S., or Liberals and NDP here.

Read more: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2013/08/labours-battle-public-mind-and-crucial-social-role-unions

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