Unifor’s Jerry Dias Raises Important Issue

Lynne Fernandez, Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues

As reported in today’s Winnipeg Free Press, Unifor president Jerry Dias is visiting communities across Canada with an important message: attempts by a variety of political forces in Canada to undermine unions have, and will continue to erode the middle class. 

Dias is right: we’ve lived enough of the neo-liberal experiment, with its attendant union bashing, to see the effects. Even mainstream players are seeing this: the OECD finds that member states with low union density rates have the highest rates of poverty. Recent research out of the US by Western and Rosenfeld finds that “. . .  unions helped institutionalize norms of equity, reducing the dispersion of nonunion wages in highly unionized regions and industries. Accounting for unions’ effect on union and nonunion wages suggests that the decline of organized labor explains a fifth to a third of the growth in inequality—an effect comparable to the growing stratification of wages by education.” 

Manitobans of all stripes would do well to listen to Dias’ message: unions help all workers, not just their members. If we want to seriously tackle the growth in inequality in Canada, we need to have a serious conversation about the role unions play in our society.