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Brian Jones: Santa powerless in face of economic forces

"A request that business groups and unions leaders start telling the truth could be an exciting new challenge," writes Brian Jones. "Alas, Santa’s workshop apparently doesn’t have the necessary tools."
"A request that business groups and unions leaders start telling the truth could be an exciting new challenge," writes Brian Jones. "Alas, Santa’s workshop apparently doesn’t have the necessary tools."

Santa surprised me with two jars of my favourite olives, making this a successful Christmas before I even opened the main presents.

 

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

 

However, the jolly red elf ignored my biggest request, which I mailed to the North Pole in August to make sure it arrived in time.

“Dear Santa,” I scrawled in green crayon so he would think it came from a kid, “please make business groups and union leaders tell the truth.”

There are so many people asking for peace on Earth and goodwill toward humans that he probably gets bored with that one. A request that business groups and unions leaders start telling the truth could be an exciting new challenge.

Alas, Santa’s workshop apparently doesn’t have the necessary tools.

The nonsensical, self-interested proclamations of business groups have been particularly annoying this year. For reference, see almost anything said by representatives of the St. John’s Board of Trade, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, et al.

They are stuck in a 1980s mindset, still adhering to the discredited “trickle-down” theory of economics, which says the richer the rich get, the better off everyone will be. It might have sounded convincing when former U.S. president Ronald Reagan cooed it in his grandfatherly voice, but 30 years of experience have proven how wrong it is.

The business crowd becomes a veritable Grinch on the issue of the minimum wage. It’s doubtful $15 per hour really is a livable wage, as its proponents claim, yet the suited ones wail that such generosity will bring down the capitalist system as we know it, with corporations crumbling and family firms folding.

“Dear Santa,” I scrawled in green crayon so he would think it came from a kid, “please make business groups and union leaders tell the truth.”

Next year, I’ll ask Santa to send a Christmas card to the various chambers, boards and councils, with an image of three wise men holding bags of money, and the inscription: “A strong economy is a function of circulating currency.”

 

Workers disunited

Meanwhile, on the wage-earning side of the economic ledger, the union movement continues to ignore the massive disparity that exists within its own ranks.

In addition to the large and unjust disparity between the one per cent (who own) and the 99 per cent (who work), there is an equally unjust — though not as large — disparity among workers in terms of wages and pensions.

Far from the workers of the world uniting as in our pal Karl’s dreams, three classes of workers have evolved:

• Third-class workers, in private enterprise, non-unionized and without a workplace pension plan;

• Second-class workers, in private enterprise, who may or may not be unionized, but who have a workplace pension plan; and

• First-class workers, in government, usually but not necessarily unionized, who have a generous workplace pension plan, subsidized by taxpayers.

I’ve yet to hear a Canadian union leader acknowledge that these three widely disparate classes of workers exist, much less what the union movement should do about it.

Whenever the issue comes up in public discussion, union leaders — you know who you are! I’ll not add to your infamy! — accuse people of endorsing a “race to the bottom” if they question the perks and privileges of first-class government workers.

And yet, to a third-class worker with low wages and no pension plan, the benefits enjoyed by first-class workers put them in the same category as the one per cent, i.e., people who enjoy largesse on the backs of others.

Consider the sunshine list. Most, if not all, of the government employees on the sunshine list — earning $100,000 or more per year — will retire with an annual pension that is higher than the salaries of many second-class workers and surely all third-class workers. Not only that, but the bottom two classes must help pay, via taxes, for those pensions.

It is a profound injustice, about which the union movement is utterly silent.

 

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram and treasurer of Unifor Local 441. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

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