Author: Brian Charlton

Citizen Workers Vote October 20th!

On October 20th citizens all across BC will have an opportunity to elect mayors, councilors, and area directors – the leadership of our local government. Unfortunately, only about 25-35 per cent of those citizens will exercise that right. As a participant, a few years back, in a group called the Citizens Voice Project, I feel strongly that not voting in these elections is a serious omission.  Local governments are the most accessible level of democratic expression and City Hall, in many ways, has the most influence on people’s day to day lives. Trade union activists are aware of that fact and so local labour councils, in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress, have for decades sent to unions lists of candidates who reflect the values of working people in their communities.  These lists, in turn, are sent out by the unions to their members. How do they come up with these lists of endorsed candidates? First, Labour Councils, like the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council, strike up sub-committees that carry out the process of advertising, sending out questionnaires, conducting interviews and finally making recommendations to the labour council as a whole. Full disclosure, I was one of the members of the subcommittee for the Comox Valley elections. Candidates approach the labour council requesting an endorsement. Those that are new candidates are sent a five page questionnaire.  The questions...

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The Janus Decision

“The right wing has weaponized the word ‘freedom’ so that people think the only way they have freedom is to do something alone, that the solidarity and unity of doing something together, which is how working people really have power, is not ‘freedom’. But what we’re seeing is that people get that they need to work together in order to accomplish what is impossible alone.”  Randi Weingarten – president American Federation of Teachers. The US Supreme Court ruled on June 27th on the Janus vs. AFSCME case that an Illinois law requiring workers, in a unionized workplace, to pay their ‘fair share’ of union dues, was a violation of ‘free speech’ and so was unconstitutional.  Essentially this makes all public sector jurisdictions in the US governed by “right to work” legislation. It is a blatantly unfair ruling. Unions now have a legal obligation to represent all workers who are covered by a collective agreement whether or not they pay dues.  So non-members receive the same wages and benefits. They have the same protections around unjust discipline. They have access to all the provisions of the collective agreement as a union member has. Before the ruling, in about 22 different States, including California, New York and Illinois, there were legal provisions that if you benefited from union representation you had to pay your fair share. In Canada this was instituted...

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Make Your Vote Count

. “What people want to know is,’ do I have a better opportunity to have my views reflected in the legislature with the system today or with a different system?’” John Horgan Premier of BC   Canadians value fairness yet we tolerate a basically unfair system to elect our representatives. In BC this autumn we have an opportunity to correct that problem. Between Oct 22 and Nov. 30 there will be a referendum conducted by mail in ballot in which the question is asked, ‘Do you want to change the present past the post electoral system –yes or no?’ If you do want to change it, you have three choices for proportional representation voting systems and you can decide on the one you want. There is lots of information available as to why you should vote for changing the system and explanations as to how the three pro rep options would work. What I want to discuss in this column is the opposition, those who are fighting the change to a more fair system. I’d taking this approach because I recently had a discussion with a friend who said at this point they would vote for the status quo, first past the post. His reasoning was that he did not trust the Greens and felt pro rep would give the Green Party even more power in the future. I...

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Affordable Housing is Possible

  Two representatives of the BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU) recently made a presentation to the Labour Council about a project BCGEU has undertaken called “Building an Affordable B.C.” which examines causes of the housing crisis in BC and proposes some concrete ways that we can make housing affordable.  It makes sense that a union would undertake a campaign such as this. Our members don’t become non-members once they leave the job site. The stresses and insecurities they face affect them as workers and as members. Those stresses have a chilling effect on their willingness to speak out or to take action if they are one payment away from losing their home or they can’t make next month’s rent. Also, the collective bargaining process can be distorted if wage increases become the end all and be all and other important issues are relegated to the back burner. In a country as rich as Canada, everyone should have decent housing.  As a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Canada has agreed that everyone should have ‘adequate housing’ and we should be continuing to strive to improve that housing, yet everywhere you look, even in our local paper, it is clear that a significant number of Canadians do not have adequate housing.  In fact some don’t have a roof over their heads at all.  An increasing...

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Makuk – A New Exchange is Needed

“For the dead are not powerless” Chief Seattle There are so many wrongs to be undone, so much history that has to be relearned, that the whole idea of true reconciliation with our indigenous Brothers and Sisters seems like it will never be done in our lifetime.  No matter how high we rank as a country on global ‘happiness’ polls,  unless we do what needs to done, all those self- satisfied pats on the back will be a lie. I have just finished a book that helped me learn some truths about our shared history here in BC.  It is called ‘Makuk- A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations’ by John Lutz , who teaches history at the University of Victoria.  Some who attended the 2014 Pacific Northwest Labour History Association conference in Cumberland may remember the excellent presentation he and Wedlidi Speck gave on ‘Aboriginal Coalminers on Vancouver Island.’ One of the premises of the book is: “The myth of the “lazy Indian’, derived from peculiar views about labour that were prevalent in European culture of the time, was invoked to transfer lands from Aboriginal Peoples to colonial states and then to colonialists.”  Lutz shows how in order for that myth to be invoked,  the role of indigenous labour, both within the traditional subsistence and prestige economies,  and within the capitalism of the settlers, was ‘disappeared’ from the history...

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Upcoming Events

Oct
27
Sat
9:00 am Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Oct 27 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Each Saturday features a delicious recipe from the North Island Chefs Association – and of course all of the wonderful local producers of vegetables, meats, baking, preserves, fish and more! See you at the Native[...]
Nov
3
Sat
9:00 am Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Nov 3 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Each Saturday features a delicious recipe from the North Island Chefs Association – and of course all of the wonderful local producers of vegetables, meats, baking, preserves, fish and more! See you at the Native[...]
Nov
10
Sat
9:00 am Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
Nov 10 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Each Saturday features a delicious recipe from the North Island Chefs Association – and of course all of the wonderful local producers of vegetables, meats, baking, preserves, fish and more! See you at the Native[...]

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