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Pushing equity forward within the labour movement

Rabble - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 05:34

Over the last few years, diversity and equity in labour movement leadership has been growing. And while these historic elections have been a great step forward, equity and diversity work needs to grow beyond just ticking boxes. 

Susanne Skidmore, the first openly queer woman to be elected president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said that unions are still celebrating ‘firsts’ when it comes to diversity in labour leadership. 

“The work has been happening on the ground to get people to the place where they see themselves moving up in leadership positions,” Skidmore said, “but there’s still more work to do.” 

After her election in 2022, Skidmore said it was important that people talk about how she is the first openly queer woman to be elected to her position. 

“There are still glass ceilings that exist in many parts of the world, whether it’s private industry, the labour movement or government,” Skidmore said. “It’s still very important that you know, that we talk about equity and that we talk about who we are so that folks who come up after us can see themselves in these positions as well.” 

This era of ‘firsts’ has still left many marginalized labour leaders vulnerable. 

JP Hornick is the first queer president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). They said that their queerness has always informed their organizing. 

“Our existence is inherently politicized,” Hornick said, “and it means that you have almost no choice but to engage with that. You can either engage with that passively or actively. You can either experience the conditions that restrict your life or you can push back against those social forces that would tell you to shut up.” 

Hornick said the reason she feels it’s important to have her queerness inform her activism is because it helps her to address worker needs outside employment as well. 

“What motivates us is not just our social position as workers,” Hornick said, “but how that fits into the larger social milieu. You cannot in any way separate out worker justice from climate justice, from environmental racism, from racism and xenophobia.The labour movement has to be rooted in social justice, or we have abdicated our responsibility for building worker power.”

Another historic election that occurred in 2022 was the election of Lana Payne as National President of Unifor. Payne is the first woman to have this position and she said that she hopes this will encourage other women to become or stay involved with the union.

READ MORE: Lana Payne elected as new National President of Unifor

“I hope that it really does show that leadership positions are for everybody.” Payne said. “I think it’s important that we’re at a place where this can happen.” 

While she recognized her election was important, Payne said she doesn’t want people to fixate too much on individual power. Instead, a more equitable labour movement will focus on collective power. 

“You can’t really create worker solidarity if you’re not including everybody in that process,” Payne said. 

The recent historic elections and growing diversity in the labour movement indicate progress, but Jan Simpson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), said people must remember that work cannot end there. Simpson is the first Black woman to lead a national union. 

Since her election in 2019, Simpson said she still sees that there are too few racialized people in positions of leadership. 

“I am one racialized person on a board of 15 people,” Simpson said, “therefore the microaggressions I face daily are invisible to those who do not look like me.”

Simpson said that the labour movement must work through white fragility and white defensiveness to be able to continue progress forward. 

“Racial capitalism was built on the foundation of the white supremacy of mostly well-connected old men which is a faulty and false notion that continues the systemic evils of racism, patriarchy, colonialism, and imperialism,” Simpson said. “Sadly, the union is not immune, and as it has embraced racial capitalism, it replicates the systems that keep these injustices in place. Unions and union leaders must re-commit to uncomfortable, difficult conversations about how we work together with equity seeking groups to begin to dismantle their policies, procedures and practices within their union and the House of Labour that perpetuate and uphold the legacies of racism, patriarchy and more.”

One pioneer in the internal reflection needed for the labour movement to live the values it projects is Yolanda McClean, the first Black woman to be elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario. 

McClean is reviewing the CUPE Ontario policy manuals to ensure that an anti-racism lens has been taken to union policy. As well, McClean is leading the Anti-Racism Organizational Action Plan Committee which has launched training programs that empower women to become more involved in the union. 

“That’s how we change things,” McClean said. “When we really do something that’s proactive. And just paper is not going to work. You actually physically have to make changes.”

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Nickelodeon Voluntarily Recognizes Production Workers Union

Popular Resistance - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 01:42

The Animation Guild has succeeded in procuring voluntary recognition for a group of unionizing production workers at Nickelodeon Animation Studios.

About a month after the IATSE local filed for a National Labor Relations Board election, Nickelodeon has chosen to bypass that process by agreeing to recognize a bargaining unit of 177 workers — including production coordinators, production managers, asset production coordinators and others. This will amount to “the largest bargaining unit of production workers to organize under The Animation Guild” so far, TAG said in its announcement Tuesday. Nickelodeon confirmed the news as well.

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When the People Have Nothing More to Eat, They Will Eat the Rich

Popular Resistance - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 01:41

On 8 January, large crowds of people dressed in colours of the Brazilian flag descended on the country’s capital, Brasília. They invaded federal buildings, including the Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace, and vandalised public property. The attack, carried out by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, came as no surprise, since the rioters had been planning ‘weekend demonstrations’ on social media for days. When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula) was formally sworn in as Brazil’s new president one week prior, on 1 January, there was no such melee; it appears that the vandals were waiting until the city was quiet and Lula was out of town. For all its bluster, the attack was an act of extreme cowardice.

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“We Will Not Accept Your Laws and We Will Not Comply With Them”

Popular Resistance - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 01:38

The United Kingdom has teetered on the edge of a ‘de facto general strike’ for months as workers protest an intensifying cost-of-living crisis. But rather than meeting the workers’ demands for adequate pay and benefits, the government has simply decided to outlaw the right to strike for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of workers.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, introduced in Parliament on January 10, would affect workers across six sectors of the U.K. economy — health, fire and rescue services, education, transport, nuclear decommissioning, and border security. Under this law, the government could force these workers to cross their own picket lines to provide “minimum levels” of service on strike days. If they fail to comply, workers could be instantly dismissed and their unions slapped with ruinous lawsuits.

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Social Media Is Filled With Spooks! With Mike Papantonio

Popular Resistance - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 01:35

In this latest edition of “Behind The Headlines”, Lee Camp sat down with Mike Papantonio. Papantonio is one of the most successful lawyers in the U.S., and has built up a reputation for holding corporate America accountable. He has also hosted successful TV and radio shows, such as “Ring of Fire.” In this interview, the two discuss the power and influence of social media.

Papantonio’s work has shown that social media is far more nefarious than most of us believe. “The empirical data is very clear. What’s happening right now is that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and all of them have figured out the formula for making a kid stay on their network for as long as possible,” he said. “The studies that these tech companies did were to figure out how to make that kid feel that they aren’t good enough. How do you make them feel like they don’t [shape] up with their peers? How do you make them feel like they need acceptance all the time – and if they don’t have acceptance, they’re just not normal?” he added.

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Peru’s Natural Resources: CIA-Linked US Ambassador Meets With Mining And Energy Ministers To Talk ‘Investments’

Popular Resistance - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 01:26

The US ambassador in Peru, Lisa Kenna, is a CIA veteran who supported a parliamentary coup in December 2022 that overthrew the South American nation’s democratically elected left-wing president, Pedro Castillo.

Castillo was subsequently imprisoned for 18 months without due process, setting off massive protests across Peru. The unelected government responded with extreme violence, killing approximately 50 protesters in just over a month.

One day before the December 7 coup, the former CIA officer turned US ambassador met with Peru’s defense minister, who subsequently told the country’s powerful military to turn against President Castillo.

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Tens of thousands on the streets of Peru in national strike

Popular Resistance - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 01:05

Tens of thousands of Peruvians from across the country arrived in the capital Lima to take part in a national strike called for today, January 19, to reject the legislative coup against former president Pedro Castillo and demand the immediate resignation of the de-facto president Dina Boluarte.

Peasant and Indigenous communities together with members of numerous social organizations and trade unions from all regions of Peru traveled in caravans to reach Lima. The caravans were organized as a part of the second ‘Marcha de los Cuatro Suyos’ or ‘March from the Four Corners’ to bring the voices of the excluded masses of deep Peru to the seat of power.

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White Supremacy

Popular Resistance - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 01:05

In recent years, the concept of white supremacy has been associated with extreme racist groups and ultranationalists, as well as high profile acts of associated racial terrorism, particularly in Western countries. Some examples are: the massacre of nine African-American worshippers  at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina (USA), the violent white nationalist  march in Charlottesville, Virginia (USA), the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand  that killed 51 people and injured 49, the Hanau, Germany attack that killed nine people  and wounded six others, and the shooting deaths of eleven congregants in a synagogue in  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA), among many others. There has also been a renewed rise of right-wing movements, politicians, and governments who espouse and advocate for ethno-nationalist and white supremacist policies. In Europe, we have seen a resurgence of ethno-nationalist parties, neo-Nazi movements, and other radical stances, often under the guise of populism, against non-white, non-Christian local and immigrant groups. In the United States, the ‘Christian Identity Movement’ – in which members believe in an impending Armageddon and a battle between whites and non-whites – is the dominant religious viewpoint of white supremacist groups. Latin America has also seen the rise, through the undemocratic usurpation of power, of right wing and Christian fundamentalist white supremacist regimes, such as those in Brazil and Bolivia.

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Asylum For Sale, Profit And Protest In The Migration Industry

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 18:55

On the heels of last week’s North America Trilateral Summit, from which not much changed within the migratory system, today’s episode will focus on migration as a for-profit industry which has turned migrating humans into commodities.

Our guest Adrienne Pine is co-editor of the book Asylum for Sale:  Profit and Protest in the Migration Industry published by PM Press in November 2020.  Here is brief description:

Through essays, artworks, photographs, infographics, and illustrations, Asylum for Sale: Profit and Protest in the Migration Industry regards the global asylum regime as an industry characterized by profit-making activity: brokers who facilitate border crossings for a fee; contractors and firms that erect walls, fences, and watchtowers while lobbying governments for bigger “security” budgets; corporations running private detention centers and “managing” deportations; private lawyers charging exorbitant fees; “expert” witnesses; and NGO staff establishing careers while placing asylum seekers into new regimes of monitored vulnerability.  Humanity is not for sale, and no one is illegal.

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Ex-FBI Agent Coleen Rowley Breaks Silence On Leonard Peltier, COINTELPRO

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 14:04

The first FBI agent close to the Leonard Peltier case is calling for his freedom. Coleen Rowley recounts, in this wide-ranging and exclusive interview, her time as an agent in the Minneapolis field office. For nearly 50 years, the FBI has indoctrinated its agents on a specific version of events that led to Leonard Peltier’s arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. The mentality then, Rowley argues, is little different than the mentality today. That’s why she decided to break the silence and is calling on President Joe Biden to grant Leonard Peltier executive clemency.

Rowley gives us an insider’s view of the FBI and how the dark and violent history of COINTELPRO, which targeted civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and social movements like the Black Panthers and AIM, didn’t end in 1971. It morphed and evolved over the years and continued well into the U.S. war on terror.

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The Empire Provides A Paper Trail To The Conflict In Ukraine

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:53

As the Left in the US struggles to hold to a clear ideological line against the US empire in its proxy war using Ukraine against Russia, the understanding of how this conflict arose has been lost amid the discourse of needing to either present a “balanced” view of the conflict, or to accuse anti-imperialists who indicate US/EU/NATO’s complicity, as “Putin’s apologists.” This kind of mealy-mouthed, spineless analysis is expected from those who always support the empire and its bloody deeds. But these days, more and more of this criticism of anti-imperialists is coming from some of the so-called US left. This group is engaged in a bizarre public display of supporting Ukraine, a display that defies logic and the facts surrounding the conflict.

As an example, the Ukraine Solidarity Network was created by Howie Hawkins, one-time Green Party presidential candidate and alleged leftist, and has been signed onto by dozens of people who are prominent in some way in US progressive politics.

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MLK: Beyond Vietnam To Ukraine

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:52

In April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an eloquent and stirring denunciation of the Vietnam War and US militarism. The speech titled “Beyond Vietnam” is relevant to today’s war in Ukraine.

In the speech at Riverside Church, King talked about how the US had supported France in trying to re-colonize Vietnam. He noted, “Before the end of the war we were meeting 80% of the French war costs.”

When France began to despair in the war, “We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war.”

King went on to recall that after the French finally left Vietnam, the United States prevented implementation of the Geneva Accord which would have allowed Ho Chi Minh to unite the divided country. Instead, the US supported its preferred South Vietnamese dictator.

The U.S. has played a similar role in blocking compromise solutions and international agreements to the Ukraine conflict.

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Solving The Debt Crisis The American Way

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:49

On Friday, Jan. 13, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote to Congress that the U.S. government will hit its borrowing limit on Jan. 19, forcing the new Congress into negotiations over the debt limit much sooner than expected. She said she will use accounting maneuvers she called “extraordinary measures” to keep U.S. finances running for a few months, pushing the potential date for default to sometime in the summer. But she urged Congress to get to work on raising the debt ceiling.

Lifting it above its current $31.385 trillion limit won’t be easy with a highly divided and gridlocked Congress. As former Republican politician David Stockman crowed in a Jan. 11 article:

15 [House] votes and the slings and arrows of MSM opprobrium were well worth it. That’s because the GOP’s anti-McCarthy insurrection obtained concessions which just might slow America’s headlong rush to fiscal armageddon. And just in the nick of time!

We are referring, of course, to the Speaker elect’s promise that there will be no more debt ceiling increases without off-setting spending cuts; and that in the event of a double-cross a single Member of the House may table a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair.

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US Veterans Sail Historic Peace Boat To Cuba

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:48

The Golden Rule anti-nuclear sailboat, crewed by US veterans and friends, has successfully completed an historic voyage to Cuba. The 34-foot wooden ketch, which in 1958 was sailed toward the Marshall Islands to interfere with US nuclear testing, is owned by Veterans For Peace, and carries out an important part of its mission, “to end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.”

Five crew, including several members of Veterans For Peace, sailed the Golden Rule from Key West, Florida and, after 22 hours at sea, arrived at Havana’s Marina Hemingway on December 31, just in time to celebrate New Years and the 62nd anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

The Golden Rule was sailed to Havana under a General License issued by the US Treasury Dept. that allows US residents to travel to Cuba for educational and people-to-people purposes.

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Police Murder Stop Cop City Protestor In Atlanta Forest

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:47

Atlanta, Georgia - On January 18, the police shot and killed a protester in Weelaunee Forest.

Dozens of heavily armed DeKalb Police, Atlanta Police and Georgia State police shut down Weelaunee People’s Park and nearby streets before entering the tree line with guns drawn and heavy machinery poised to continue forest destruction.

Police have repeatedly raided this public park, flattened community gardens and art installations, attacked protestors with chemical weapons and rubber bullets, and threatened lethal force. During past raids, police have consistently escalated violent tactics on peaceful people who were sitting in trees or walking through the public park. Since June 6, 2022, activists and community members fighting to Defend the Atlanta Forest and Stop Cop City have been demanding that officers stop bringing weapons into the forest after APD pointed their weapons at peaceful protestors.

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Hezbollah Claims The US Is Preventing Iranian Oil Supply To Lebanon

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:38

The US is preventing Iranian energy projects from supplying oil to Lebanon, claimed Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, chief of Hezbollah, in a televised speech on Tuesday, January 17. This oil, he said, could have provided relief to millions of Lebanese suffering from lack of electricity and fuel.

Speaking at the award ceremony of the Soleimani International Prize for Resistance Literature, Nasrallah noted that all of Lebanon is suffering from the energy crisis, “whose repercussions are affecting the economy and the people’s daily lives,” Al-Mayadeen reported.

Nasrallah claimed that Hezbollah had initiated talks with Iran to get oil, as per decisions made by the government. Iran had agreed to provide oil to Lebanon, and while the “Iranian offer is still on the table,” the US is “preventing the offer from being carried out,” he said.

Lebanon has been unable to import enough oil and gas as it faces an unprecedented economic crisis since 2019.

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Rail Workers Are Fighting On After Biden Blocked A National Strike

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:37

While the high-stakes labor dispute on U.S. freight railroads has receded from headlines since President Joe Biden and Congress imposed a new contract last month, rail workers are continuing their fight for dignity and better conditions — albeit without the threat of a national strike on the table.

“The American people should know that while this round of collective bargaining is over, the underlying issues facing the workforce and rail customers remain,” the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department said in a statement.

The major underlying issue remains precision scheduled railroading (PSR), the business model adopted in recent years by Class I rail carriers like Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern and CSX. Designed to maximize shareholder profits by cutting costs to the bone, PSR has been blamed for a dramatic reduction in the freight rail workforce, increased supply-chain congestion and deteriorating safety — all while investors rake in record profits.

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France: ‘Black Thursday’ Nationwide Strike Over Pension Reforms

Popular Resistance - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:34

Massive mayhem is ahead in France, as unions and protesters call for a “Black Thursday” countrywide strike over the government’s pension plans this week.

The day of protest will be the first significant challenge that will establish the extent of the public’s will to pressure French President Emmanuel Macron to back down on plans to increase the official retirement age. To this end, French union leaders have urged for “massive mobilization.”

Three-quarters of teachers are anticipated to join the strike, disrupting schools, transportation, and healthcare services. Most trains will not operate, the Paris metro services will be significantly impacted, and flights are expected to be canceled. Truck drivers, couriers, petroleum refinery workers, and delivery businesses have all announced they will be joining the strikes.

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Lies, damn lies and climate change

Rabble - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:01

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is getting carried away. Literally. She joined thousands in the village of Lützerath, Germany, to oppose the expansion of an open-pit lignite mine, one of the dirtiest forms of coal. Police in riot gear hauled her away as the mass arrests progressed.

Greta wrote on Twitter, “Yesterday I was part of a group that peacefully protested the expansion of a coal mine…We were kettled by police and then detained but were let go later that evening. Climate protection is not a crime.”

As Greta was being detained, thousands of the global elite were arriving in Davos, Switzerland for the 53rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The WEF is touted as a place for leaders to engage in peer-to-peer dialogue to address the world’s most pressing problems. Hundreds arrive by private jet, which, on a per-passenger basis, is the most heavily polluting mode of transport.

This gathering of high carbon emitters heard from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “We are flirting with climate disaster. Every week brings a new climate horror story,” he said.

“The consequences will be devastating. Several parts of our planet will be uninhabitable. For many, this is a death sentence, but it is not a surprise. The science has been clear for decades…We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their core product was baking our planet.”

Guterres was referencing a study published in Science further proving that fossil fuel companies long knew greenhouse gasses intensified human-induced climate change. This study followed a December report issued by the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee documenting decades of greenwashing and climate change disinformation by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Exxon, Chevron and other big oil companies knew that when they were burning fossil fuels in the 1970s, it was causing climate change and that this was going to be a major problem for humanity,” Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna, who helped lead the investigation, said on the Democracy Now! news hour.

“They had the best scientists. And yet their CEOs, their executives went out for decades and lied to the American public, did not disclose their own science. As a result, we never started the transition, and we are in the world of pain that we are in today.”

The “world of pain” he referenced has descended on Khanna’s home state of California, battered over the past two weeks by climate-fuelled rain and snow storms, landslides and mudslides, driven by what climate scientist David Swain described on Democracy Now! as “atmospheric rivers…corridors of highly concentrated atmospheric water vapor moving quickly through the atmosphere.” In addition to billions of dollars in damages, these unprecedented storms have claimed 22 lives to date.

Congressman Khanna blames the massively profitable fossil fuel companies. “They should be held accountable like Big Tobacco was held accountable.”

While Davos is buzzing with World Economic Forum activities “to drive tangible, system-positive change for the long term” and spur “proactive, vision-driven policies and business strategies,” the Alps, in which the resort town is nestled, are suffering a climate crisis of their own. An unseasonably warm winter has left much of the huge mountain range barren of snow, with the multi-billion-dollar ski and winter snow sports industry in a crisis.

In 2019, Greta Thunberg, then 16 years old, told the World Economic Forum, “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act…as if the house is on fire. Because it is.”

Three years later, she is back in Davos, fresh from the coal protests in Lützerath, with other youth climate leaders including Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, Helena Gualinga from Ecuador, and Luisa Neubauer from Germany. They have issued a letter to the CEOs of fossil fuel corporations, that reads in part:

“This Cease and Desist Notice is to demand that you immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so urgently need…If you fail to act immediately, be advised that citizens around the world will consider taking any and all legal action to hold you accountable. And we will keep protesting in the streets in huge numbers.”

The World Economic Forum has been discussing world problems for just about as long as ExxonMobil has been lying about climate change. Scientists revealed this week that Greenland just had its hottest decade in 1,000 years and that its massive ice sheet is rapidly melting, causing more sea level rise. Catastrophic climate disruption is here, and disruptors like Greta Thunberg are clearly not the ones who should be arrested.

This column originally appeared in Democracy Now!

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Addressing Canada’s food price inflation

Rabble - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 11:46

Recently, a student approached me about food price inflation, its impact on the student body, and the strategy generally adopted by the Bank of Canada to combat inflation. We were reviewing media articles in class on the prices frozen by Loblaws on their no name brand goods in conjunction with the billions that were added to the wealth of its CEO, Galen Weston Jr., especially during the pandemic. The course, which I recently introduced at MacEwan University, is titled Humanistic Economics, where I eschew fancy mathematics and lead students through critiques of standard textbook theory and introduce them to alternative perspectives on topical issues including inequality, minimum wage, and free trade. Thus, when asked about food inflation, I did not scurry to extract data on the Consumer Price Index for food prices or the average weekly earnings, both of which are easily available from Statistics Canada. Other economists have already presented such extensive information in their online articles.

My objective is also not to highlight supply chain issues, which are highlighted as factors contributing to food price inflation. Rather, I am more interested in highlighting the perspective that economic issues are too important to be ceded to the “experts”, a point made by student activists Earle, Moran, and Ward-Perkins, who wrote The Econocracy (p. 4). After all, it is not the well compensated “experts” who bear the brunt of high food prices but the working-class people. Such people appropriately termed as the “precariat” have been increasingly marginalized by globalization, technological change, automation, insecure gig economy jobs, and the weakening of unions since the days of President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. Thus, it is not the cold numbers or the prescriptions of “experts” that should be given precedence in explaining food price inflation and its alleviation. Rather, we should be highlighting the stories of the precariat who can tell you first-hand about the pangs of hunger and the desperate strategies they are undertaking to cope with the higher cost of living (or rather existing).

The reason for my radical approach is that I have become viscerally disillusioned by standard textbook theory that paralyzes any initiative towards the alleviation of the concerns of the poor. Take for instance, price ceilings on medicines, the push towards the $15 minimum wage, raising the top tax rates or imposing wealth taxes, all of which address inequality by influencing the existing distribution of resources. In each such instance, standard textbook theory teaches us that such policies would introduce deadweight loss (a measure of inefficiency), distort incentives to work, and would be counterproductive to our stated goal of ensuring an affordable living standard for the precariat. However, textbook theory is stuck in the days of 18th and 19th century thinkers like Adam Smith and David Ricardo, even as the world has moved on from the simple economies based on the baker, butcher, and the brewer and towards complex economies shaped by large multi-national corporations. Moreover, despite the challenge posed by cutting edge scholars like Thomas Piketty in France, Lars Osberg in Canada, or even Blanchard and Rodrik, who assembled a constellation of 29 voices in their 2021 book Combating Inequality, to push the idea that the time of “ifs and buts” has long passed, inertia has paralyzed standard textbook theory to inaction.

Returning to the questions posed by the student, I must emphasize the work of Canadian economist Lars Osberg who wrote The Age of Increasing Inequality. He is clear that increasing interest rates to target low inflation destroyed jobs in manufacturing industries, reduced the growth in real wages, led to the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, reduced overall growth, and instigated cuts in income transfer programs and government services including healthcare and education (p. 55-59). Thus, he explains that the wage stagnation of the middle-class arose due to the “price stability” policy of increasing interest rates. This background on the Bank of Canada policies from the 1980s and 1990s allows us to question its policies in the 2020s in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the COVID pandemic. After all, despite the increase in interest rates to combat inflation, food price inflation remains a pressing problem. No wonder, post-Keynesians are skeptical of monetary policy to achieve the twin goals of price stability and full employment and instead emphasize the predominant role for fiscal policy.

What this means is for the government of Canada to initiate drastic action to implement confiscatory taxes (ala Piketty) on the wealthy to redistribute resources to the poor (at least for those who have not completely bought Modern Monetary Theory). The initiative of the wealthy will not die out and they would rather be motivated to work more to retain their wealth ranking and maintain their level of conspicuous consumption. Moreover, instead of making arguments that the rich will vote with their feet, we should rather be asking what sort of people abandon their responsibility towards meeting the social contract. On the other hand, such redistribution would offer the precariat some respite as they starve in the cold Winter. Additionally, instead of suggesting the poor to adopt budgetary strategies like buying canned or frozen food, a lot which is replete with high levels of sugars and sodium, we should be questioning why must the citizens of one of the most advanced countries in the world have to put up with such penury.

To recapitulate, I would like my students to view economics through the lens of democratic participation in which the voices of the precariat are heeded and placed at the forefront instead of privileged “experts” that uphold the neoliberal world order and the inequitable status quo that rests on low corporate income taxes, low top tax rates, zero wealth and inheritance taxes, low minimum wage, and draconian budgetary cuts.

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Categories: F. Left News


The Fine Print I:

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Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

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