Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Posts Tagged ‘labour’

RFT Ep 252 – The GMO and You Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 10, 2014

Download the episode here! 


Prairie report – The price of dignity?


A special report from the Prairies on poverty – How kicking out a homeless man from a grocery store reflects on the deficiencies of our society.

Further Reading:

Non-English signs


Recent debate about a Chinese only sign in Richmond leads to thought about what multiculturalism ultimately means.

Further Reading:

Temporary foreign workers


A 40yr old program gone off the rails under Harper’s watch…how did it happen?

Further Reading:

Chernobyl at 28


28yrs later, life has not only survived at Chernobyl but is flourishing.

Further Reading:

After tens of thousands of years of modifying organisms, what does GMO mean now? And the most counter-intuitive argument for GMO labeling.

Posted in Blogs, Show notes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Editorial – Caterpillar, lock-outs and who defends Canadians?

Posted by Don McLenaghen on February 5, 2012

Okay, so there are many things that I find disturbing and upsetting about the just announced decision of Caterpillar to shut down the Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. plant in London. I could do an appropriate anti-corporate rant about how corporations see people…cities…society as meat for the grinder of profits. I could point out the underhanded and deliberate way Caterpillar uses its global position to undermine labour…to strip people of their ability to collectively bargain by creating production in different counties then pitting labour in those regions against each other to create the lowest possible standard of living…regardless, of the inequality of wealth created. It is obscene that a corporation like Caterpillar, which is experiencing record profits[1], feels no need to share its prosperity with those whose hands made the products that enriched the company but instead plans to strip them of what dignity they have remaining.

No, what I wish to bring to the attention of Canadians is our government…well, I say ours but I find that caricature farcical. One would expect that a body, such as government or union, would work to help its people…to ensure the prosperity, integrity and dignity of its members. The union has tried to stand up for its workers but as labour laws are, there is little they can do when confronted by a corporation that demands its work force take a 50% drop in pay or they will leave the country…”oh and by the way, leaving was our intention from the start”.

In October 2010 Caterpillar bought Electro-Motive[2] that same month it began ‘building’ an assembly plant in Indiana[3] which went online Oct 2011 ostensibly because of “Buy America” provisions imposed by US lawmakers. It is important to note though that Indiana is one the US states that have passed “Right to Work” legislation[4]; laws intended to prevent unions from organizing in their state. The plant in London, for those not in the know, is one of four facilities operated by Electro-Motive around the world; although one, a maintenance plant (immune from “Buy America”), was opened in 2010 in Mexico and the other in Indiana. Caterpillar experienced a record increase in profits of 82%[5]…but did this only on an increase sale of 52%; where did the rest of the increased profit come from? Well one possible location is the workers. The average wage in the closed Canadian plant was $32-$45/hr[6] and those of the new Indiana plant – $12-$18/hr[7]…that helps the shareholders, the CEO ($10.5 million in pay last year)[8] & board members…but those who actually do the work – F@ All.

Losing unions hurts us all

Okay, I have taken a bit of a sidetrack here. It is important to know some of the detail…that this is more than just a business decision; it is an attack on Canada and the Canadian worker. Although my views on capitalism should be well known to my readers this is how the system is set up. To push back on the power of the corporation the worker has only one option – collective power. Collective power has two main manifestations; unions which are prevented to organize globally, effectively because of draconian restrictions on the movement of labour, while capital flows freely (and recklessly) across borders. This is not the first time Caterpillar has used its global reach for union busting.

The other locus of collective power is the government. It was the Harper government that gave Electro-Motive a 5 million dollar tax break[9] to ‘save jobs’, fat lot of good that did. The conservative mantra (north and south of the border) state that give the 1%…the corporations tax breaks they will invest, employ and create better communities. This is, as a rule with few exceptions, a fallacy when applied to multinationals. Why don’t they learn!

What can the government do now? Well, then labour was ‘acting up’, Harper could not move fast enough to pass back-to-work legislation. “To save jobs and help the economy”. In this case he could seize the assets of the London plant…nationalize it (or at least collectivize it). This is not as radical or ‘petty’ as it may at first sound. Caterpillar did not resolve the continuing labour dispute; it just walked out. The government has a right and a duty to step in and ensure the community and the workers are protected and compensated. There are obligations a corporation takes on when it sets up shop; it is the role of the government to ensure those obligations are satisfied.

Second, this is an act of economic warfare.  As we are all well aware of these days, corporations have in many ways become de facto states. Caterpillar took hostage a group of Canadian workers and then economically executed them…as a warning to any other union or worker in Canada, if the company says take a 50% pay cut, you do it or will kill your livelihood! It would not be the first time a government in Canada has stepped-in to protect its populous from predatory corporations[10]. Former Premier Danny Williams did this Abitibi-Bowater in Newfoundland[11] when it threatened the people of the province[12].  The Harper government did not even have the business intelligence to ensure that when Canadian taxpayers gifted Electro-Motive with 5 Million dollars, strings would be attached to ensure the plant while profitable (and no one has argued it is not) would remain open with job security and integrity intact.

I am incensed at Caterpillar for what it has done. We can however ask and ask again why our government…the HARPER government sits back and insists that tax cuts for corporation help workers in the face of the obvious rebuttal of that as witnessed by Electro-Motive. Why he is so eager to stand up for corporations when unions attempt redress of grievances by instantly issuing back-to-work legislation. Why he has been absent when a foreign corporation takes economic hostages…almost 500 people have lost well-paying jobs not to mention the ripple effect in the community of London. If he is OUR Prime Minister…if it is OUR Government, why does it stand by in silence and do nothing?

Let your voice be heard…

[1] “Caterpillar Inc. reported a 58 percent rise in quarterly earnings that blew away Wall Street expectations”

[12] Of course the absence of the Ontario government is just as sad, however, they have not been as ideologically tied to the manta of “tax breaks improved corporate investment leads to more jobs” that Harper et al has chanted.

Posted in Blogs, Don's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »