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The role of unions in a democratic society

Honoured to receive this customized mug by Connie Wright from my home Union local, one that I left almost 25 years ago. CAW 112 is now Unifor 112, and today I work as a management consultant, but solidarity between people is a value I will always cherish.

Trade unions have a fundamental role to play in society that goes beyond ensuring that correct and timely pay cheques are issued and basic labour laws are respected.

In a democracy, unions have the additional responsibility to advocate for a just society and a voice for citizens (the majority of which are working people) in the one place in our society where democracy does not traditionally exist--that is, the workplace.

Remember, our labour relations system is legislatively based on a "master-slave" model. And people who spend the majority of their waking hours in a "master-slave" relationship make for very poor citizens in a democracy.

Since the health of a democracy is determined by the quality and quantity of citizen activity, we need vibrant unions that act within and for the common good through the skillful exercise and practice of democratic rights.

Let us all advocate together for a human workplace. A place where everyone is treated with respect and is becoming of citizens in a democracy.

It was a Republican president Theodore Roosevelt who said at the turn of last century:

"No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day's work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load."

To that, I say, "Solidarity forever!"


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