Solidarity For-Never?

Saskatchewan’s Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) is a support agency operating within our agrarian economy. SCIC workers have been without a contract since September of ’09. Truly, an unfortunate situation. SGEU’s requested 7.75 per cent raise has received a counter offer of 5.5 per cent. Both sides have indicated a willingness to return to the table. However, in the midst of a catastrophic flood — SCIC workers walked off the job. According to some, the timing is a well-placed political maneuver. But strikes don’t take place in a vacuum and the province’s farmers will suffer. The SCIC developed as a stabilizing agent in a n unpredictable industry. It is meant to help farners through tough times, not hang them out to dry.

This evening, I will be taking part in a guided tour commemorating the “On to Ottawa” trek and Regina riot. I believe in the need for strong unions, but I also believe a debt of accountability is due. Early union leaders and workers took to the streets in the name of safety, security and solidarity. The cry for “OBU” (one big union) considered the needs of all the people searching for respite. Pioneering organizers like J.S. Woodsworth and his American counter-part Eugene V. Debs demanded that no worker be left behind. The SCIC strike and CUPW lockout have done little to remind us of the “solidarity-ideal”. The people suffering are the unprotected workers, farmers and others overlooked by the existing hierarchy.

5 thoughts on “Solidarity For-Never?”

  1. I support the union’s right to walk out of a job when negotiations have failed and the employer/government refuses to bargain. I think that after two years with no movement it was time to strike.

    Striking right when you are needed most demonstrates your value to society. It shows the public that your cause is worthy of support and it puts the employer in the uncomfortable situation of having to bargain.

    That said I think what is great about Saskatchewan is the community spirit and working together to get things done. Especially to overcome adversity. Walking out when many farmers need their services to ensure any income at all (versus a percentage wage increase), regardless of whether this job action was preplanned (which I hope it was) is very hard to support. Unions are organizations that bind people/workers together for the greater good. This job action is not for the greater good, it is for the good of SCIC workers at the expense of others. I, for one, would have an easier time supporting this particular union if they had actually gone to work despite failing negotiations.

    On the other hand for Wall to blame union leadership for this unfortunate situation just draws attention to his own part in the ordeal. He has not settled this, or many other contracts, in years. His threats and bullshit name calling is disgusting. Instead of ultimatums to union leadership he should be going back to the bargaining table or acknowledging his own failing in dealing with this problem before it came to a head.

    I still support unions, as a member of HSAS, and I think that SGEU has every right to go through with this job action. However I’m not sure that price they are paying in public support is going to be worth the settlement they get.

  2. Danny, if you think farmers have been overlooked by the existing hierarchy, I will have to respectfully disagree.
    Canadian farmers are on average in the top ten per cent of wealth in Canada, according to StatsCan. Largely that’s because of government programs like SCIC that aren’t economically viable without a fair bit of government money. There’s also everything from supply management to business risk management programs like AgriStability.
    I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the lousy timing of this strike, but I think you’re making a ton of assumptions about farmers that are outdated.
    Basically any farmer I know that’s commercially viable, as opposed to lifestyle farmers that are also working full time jobs, is a multimillionaire. True, that’s paper wealth that won’t be realized until the end of his or her career — but for the us employees, it doesn’t matter how hard we work. We’re unlikely to accumulate much equity in the businesses we’re part of, unless we buy it through an employee share purchase plan.
    I simply don’t buy your argument that they’re somehow owed a debt of solidarity from working people. Many of the farmers I know are some of the most ardent anti-unionists I’ve ever met. And that includes the farmers who are in the gigantic closed-shop unions otherwise known as supply management.

  3. The postal strike or lockout has become a circus thanks to its ringmaster Jack Layton. He cannot win yet continues to block reality. Does he see the more he talks, the more people move away from using the post office ever again. He is so
    conceited he cannot see he is not even helping CUPW anymore.

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