Unions Matter

Unions Matter

Advancing Democracy, Economic Equality, and Social Justice

Edited by Matthew Behrens and

Income inequality has risen rapidly over the past three decades. In Canada it is now at its highest level since 1928. One of the root causes: the consistent chipping away of labour rights. The labour movement has been left unable to maintain membership levels and incapable of narrowing the income gap through collective bargaining, with profound implications for Canadians. Labour rights are human rights. They provide a powerful democratic counterweight to the growing power of corporations and the wealthy, and are key to a functioning democracy. Unions Matter affirms the critical role that unions and strong labour rights play in creating greater economic equality and promoting the social wellbeing of all citizens.

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Unions Matter gives a comprehensive and readable synopsis of the evolution of income inequality and unionization in Canada over the past 30 years.

– Literary Review of Canada

Written in a lively and accessible style, Unions Matter makes a compelling case for the need to recognize labour rights as human rights and to develop laws and policies that put these rights to work. If you care about work and equality in Canada today you should read this book.

– Judy Fudge, professor, Kent Law School, UK

Why are one in three workers in Canada union members? And what does the labour movement do for the rest of us and for Canadian society in general? Unions Matter is an informative handbook for anyone interested in finding out why unions matter to our quality of life and our future. Buy one copy, buy many, and spread the word.

– Elaine Bernard, Executive Director, Labor & Worklife Program, Harvard Law School

Unions Matter! The Harper government has launched an all-out assault on working people and their collective rights. This powerful book reminds us that unions have fought for every basic right we enjoy as Canadians and of the debt we all owe them. It made me angry and more determined than ever to stop the travesty of this agenda.

– Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians

This important book explains why the business attack on unions is so fierce: because unions have been effective in protecting the rights of working people. Written by some of Canada’s leading thinkers, this powerful collection of essays reminds us that unions not only brought us the weekend, but just about everything else that makes our lives livable today.

– Linda McQuaig, author and journalist

Unions Matter should be required reading … for any activist, communications officer or elected representative involved in promoting the labour movement

– rabble.ca

Unions Matter is a timely counterpoint to a divisive political narrative aimed at weakening the labour movement in Canada. Whether the purpose of unions is to protect human rights or to reduce income inequality, this book is testament to why unions matter. It’s a great resource showcasing stellar research. Unions Matter is a vital contribution to Canadian democracy, in which unions play a key role.

– Trish Hennessy, director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office


Introduction Unions Promote Fairness
James Clancy
Part One Reducing Income Inequality through Labour Rights
Chapter 1 Why Unions Matter: Unions, Income Inequality, and Regressive Labour Laws
Garry Sran with James Clancy, Derek Fudge, and Michael Lynk
Chapter 2 Income Inequality in Canada: History and Trends
Armine Yalnizyan
Chapter 3 Increasing Inequality: The Challenge to Canadian Unions
Lars Osberg
Chapter 4 Labour Law and Labour Rights: The Wagner Act in Canada
Michael Lynk
Part Two Promoting Democracy, Economic Equality, and Social Rights
Chapter 5 Unions and Democratic Governance: Empowering Participatory Citizenship
Nathalie Des Rosiers
Chapter 6 Advancing Human Rights for All Canadians: The Struggle for Equality
Paul Champ
Chapter 7 A Changing Tide Hurts Vulnerable Workers: A Case Study on Migrant Workers
Naveen Mehta
Part Three Constitutional Protection of Labour Rights
Chapter 8 Who Owns Charter Values? A Mobilization Strategy for the Labour Movement
Fay Faraday and Eric Tucker
Chapter 9 Freedom of Association: The Right to Bargain Collectively and the Right to Organize
Paul J.J. Cavalluzzo and Adrienne Telford
Chapter 10 Constitutional Protection for the Right to Strike: The Role of the Courts
Steven Barrett and Benjamin Oliphant
Chapter 11 Working towards Equality: Putting Vision into Practice
Fay Faraday
Chapter 12 The Power of Collective Bargaining: International Rights in a Neoliberal Age
John Hendy