Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada
Though the Canadian labour movement’s postwar political, economic and social achievements may have seemed like irrevocable contributions to human progress, they have proven to be anything but. Since the mid-1970s, labour’s political influence and capacity to defend, let alone extend, these gains has been seriously undermined by the strategies of both capitalist interests and the neoliberal state. Electoral de-alignment and the decline of class-based voting, bursts of unsustained extra-parliamentary militancy and a general lack of influence on state actors and policy outcomes all signal that the labour movement is in crisis.
Despite much experimentation in an attempt to regain political clout, labour continues to experience deep frustration and stagnation. As such, the labour movement’s future political capacities are in question, and the need for critical appraisal is urgent. Understanding how and why workers were able to exert collective power in the postwar era, how they lost it and how they might re-establish it is the central concern of Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada.
With essays from established and emerging scholars from a wide range of disciplines, this collection assesses the past, present and uncertain future of labour politics in Canada. Bringing together the traditional electoral-based aspects of labour politics with analyses of the newer and rediscovered forms of working-class organization and social movement-influenced strategies, which have become increasingly important in the Canadian labour movement, this book seeks to take stock of these new forms of labour politics, understand their emergence and assess their impact on the future of labour in Canada.
Stephanie Ross & Larry Savage – Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada: An Introduction
Part I: Contextualizing Labour and Working-Class Politics
Donald Swartz & Rosemary Warskett – Canadian Labour and the Crisis of Solidarity
Stephanie Ross – Business Unionism and Social Unionism in Theory and Practice
Part II: The Challenge of Electoral Politics
Bryan Evans – The New Democratic Party in the Era of Neoliberalism
Peter Graefe – Québec Labour: Days of Glory or the Same Old Story?
Larry Savage – Organized Labour and the Politics of Strategic Voting
Dennis Pilon – Labour and the Politics of Voting System Reform in Canada
Part III: The Prospects of Extra-Parliamentary Activism
Amanda Coles & Charlotte Yates – Unions, Gender Equity and Neoconservative Politics
Suzanne Mills & Tyler McCreary – Social Unionism, Partnership and Conflict: Union Engagement with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
Dennis Soron – Canadian Labour and the Environment: Addressing the Value-Action Gap
Simon Black – Community Unionism and the Canadian Labour Movement
Kendra Coulter – Anti-Poverty Work: Unions, Poor Workers and Collective Action in Canada
Aziz Choudry & Mark Thomas – Organizing Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada
Charles Smith – Labour, Courts and the Erosion of Workers’ Rights in Canada
Photo by Saad Akhtar
“This book brings together a wide range of contributions about labour and politics in Canada, some of them unprecedented. It is much needed: there is nothing like it available and the issues it deals with are becoming ever more important.”
David Camfield, Labour Studies, University of Manitoba
“All of the chapters in this anthology are effective and informative, and each one all ends with a helpful summary relating the specific topic to the overall theme… The editors and their collaborators have done a remarkable job of presenting essays which are brief without being superficial, pointed without being strident and academically sound without being pedantic.”
Howard A. Doughty, Political Economy, Seneca College, Toronto, Canada.
Read full review at College Quarterly
“Ross and Savage have elicited a much-needed discussion of the current inertia of labour’s political program, and the book goes a long way in triggering a challenge of the status quo and offering various ways to move forward for those concerned with revitalizing the Canadian labour movement.”
Brad Walchuk, PhD candidate, York University, Toronto, Canada
Read full review at Briarpatch Magazine
“In just over 200 pages, this slim volume covers a lot of ground with remarkable efficiency, analysing the current and historical state of the labour movement with sufficient clarity to make it suitable for classroom use. But it does more: defining politics more broadly than most enables the collection to deliver more than the title suggests… It should be recommended to anyone seeking insight into the world today.”
Julie Guard, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Read full review at Socialist Studies (PDF)
“The selection of essays on various aspects of political action by Canadian unions and workers would serve very effectively as an introduction and as an overview. The writers approach the topic from a pro-labour perspective that is nonetheless quite capable of being critical of the movement but is never polemical, and the criticism is mostly tempered by a sober appreciation of practical constraints.”
Scott Neigh, writer, Sudbury, Ontario
Read full review at Canadian Dimension
“This well-conceptualized book helps fill an important gap.”
Andrew Jackson, Broadbent Institute.
Read full review at the Canadian Journal of Political Science
“In my reading, Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada contributes well to the current discourse about what a labour union, or labour movement, should look like today, especially with its focus on workers’ solidarity, and its framework of the global workers’ movement against the corporate neoliberal agenda. It offers a language and a perspective that will invite the rank-and-file activist as well as the struggling labour leader to deal with the crucial questions about labour’s agenda.”
Jojo Geronimo, social justice educator
Full full review are Our Times Magazine