Keeping solidarity for workers

Grappling with loyalty and worker solidarity in a competitive market place.

Solidarity. It’s more than just a crusty punk patch proclaiming radical politics. I should know, I had one.

Having spent nearly a decade in unionized frontline social service and community health workplaces, I lost touch with the fact that the legally protected rank and file are in the minority. And it needs to be said: even in its heyday, solidarity was often contingent on race and gender. But even so, solidarity in the organized sense has been in bad decline for a long while.

I know this. But I was reminded of this during the recent public school teachers strike in British Columbia. I was reading random comments on Facebook feeds, which, I know, is not advisable. I couldn’t help myself. Covering my eyes and peeking through my fingers, I read some ignorant, indignant commentary decrying the teachers’ demands for better working conditions and decent compensation.

Some folks were pissed about the benefits teachers receive. WUT?!

It seems that some people think the BC Teachers Federation are jerks because they demanded what we should all be demanding. We should demand it, and we should receive it.

Why not use what is provided in legally binding collective agreements (the good stuff, anyway) as goals for those who don’t have even basic benefits at work, and improve on the benefits received by people on income assistance?

It seems that some people think the BC Teachers Federation are jerks because they demanded what we should all be demanding.

Solidarity is strength. But it also takes strength. Solidarity requires that we celebrate the advances of other workers. And every time we bemoan someone getting slightly more than we do, it gets worse.1

Everyone deserves a benefit plan. Everyone deserves the optimum health that we talk about in community health workplaces. But only a very limited segment can actually pull it off, and they do it by paying into private benefit plans.

The more time we take to argue about what we collectively ask for, the easier it is for the government, or for businesses, to decide that the majority of the population can handle what only a few can do. But hey, no judgement because they’re footing the bill themselves, LOL. [end]

  1. Again, it has to be said, solidarity has gender and racial limits. It’s fitting then that most teachers are women. 72% of teachers in BC were women in 2012 (PDF). And it’s not an accident that the percentage of teachers who are women is increasing.

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