Protests Work: Ontario to Repeal Anti-Worker Legislation

Last week the Conservative Ontario government did what was previously unthinkable in Canada: take away charter rights from people who work. This unprecedented act was met with widespread opposition from unions coast to coast as the Conservatives made it clear that collective bargaining (like NHL and MLB players have) will no longer be respected. People said no and launched massive protests defending worker’s rights and now the weak Conservatives admitted they were wrong and will repeal their legislation.

Protesting works and don’t let anybody try to convince you otherwise.

“(Workers) took on the Ford government and the government blinked,” said CUPE national president Mark Hancock.

Opposition to the law had been gathering steam over the past several days and the unions used the press conference to give Ford a glimpse of what he faced had he not promised Monday morning to repeal the law.

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Unionized Workers Earn $1.3 Million More

artistic image of workers striking
Unions improve the working conditions across the board for any industry they are in, plus when unions work together they can inspire mass change. Anti unionists argue against unions because members have to contribute dues which, they argue, lowers total earnings. This is a flat-out lie. Researchers at Cornell University have concluded that unionized workers earn a cumulative 1.3 million USD more than non-unionized workers in the same field. The next time somebody argues union dues lower the take home pay, show them this study.

Studies on labor union earnings premiums generally investigate their size through point-in-time estimates. This study posits, by contrast, that point-in-time estimates of the union premium overlook the cumulative earnings advantages of long-term, persistent union membership. Using a sample of men from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1969 to 2019, the authors investigate how lifetime union membership contributes to earnings advantages. They find, first, that unionization throughout one’s career is associated with a $1.3 million mean increase in lifetime earnings, larger than the average gains from completing college. Second, the lifetime earnings gains are channeled entirely through higher hourly wages and occur despite earlier-than-average retirement for persistently unionized men. Third, the union wage premium is not constant throughout a worker’s career; instead it increases with more years of union membership. The cumulative advantages of union membership for workers’ economic well-being are far greater than point-in-time estimates suggest.

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Game Workers Uniting for Better Workplaces


In creative industries labour exploitation can happen because employers can get away with leaning into the passion creative workers bring to their field. The video game industry may be a young industry, but the tricks of getting free labour from workers are old ones. As a result, movements like Game Workers Unite have popped up to help video game workers get the respect they deserve.

Recently workers at Activision created the largest video game union and in Canada a union has been formed at a game service company. This is the beginning of a larger movement in the industry which is great to see. Professor Johanna Weststar has looked into why this is happening now:

We can trace the history of game worker resistance to see some of these fluctuations. Examples include the Easter Egg planted by programmer Warren Robinett in Atari’s Adventure, the brief formation of a virtual union called UbiFree in France in 1998 and the infamous EA Spouse affair in 2004.

The shine is coming off the rhetoric of “passion” that reinforces individualism, valorizes heroic efforts for the sake of the game and promotes worker alignment with employer interests.

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Thanks to Roger!

How Smalls Won Big Against Amazon

vote sign

Chris Smalls took on one of the richest people on the planet and won. Smalls worked at an Amazon warehouse where he led a walkout due to the poor working conditions and treatment from the company, he was fired the day he led the walkout. This only gave Smalls the push he needed to rally the rest of the Amazon workers to unionize. Despite Amazon spending millions and forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings the workers won and became the first Amazon warehouse to unionize.

Smalls had zero \union background, nor did he rely on any established labor groups for funding and organizing power. 

Instead he raised money for the operation through GoFundMe. Smalls and his co-founder Derrick Palmer — who’s still working at the warehouse — reached out to their coworkers. 

The bus stop used by workers became their gathering place. They’d wait there to talk to workers who were heading home from their shifts. They’d have a bonfire going, with s’mores, and get people talking. They invited workers to cookouts.

“We had over 20 some barbecues, giving out food every single week, every single day, whether it was pizza, chicken, pasta,” Smalls said. He even brought home-cooked food from his aunt to some of these gatherings.

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People Share What Changed Their Attitude to Unions

Foodora work
In America anti-union sentiment is strong due to the marketing efforts of large business owners that don’t like paying workers. Amazon’s anti-union efforts are a great example of this. In recent years the pro-union movement has been growing and the recent push by Amazon workers to get respect is an example of this.
Over at Vice, of all places, they have an article about eight people explaining how they learned that unions are there to protect workers. The stories capture the reality, and benefits, of being in a union in the USA right now.

That strike helped us win free family health care. We don’t have to pay anything to cover our spouse or kids, and the copays are so low that I never need to worry about money when I go to the doctor. We also won retention rights, which protect us when our restaurants shut down or close temporarily for renovations—which happens all the time at SFO! With these retention rights, we get put on a priority list to be rehired at one of the other restaurants in the airport. My union contract gives me a sense of security that I’m always going to be able to provide for my family. Before I started as a union cook at SFO, my husband was working a job where he had to pay a big premium for health insurance, and it didn’t even cover the whole family. Nothing beats having a good job that feels really secure.

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