State of the anti-union -

State of the anti-union

Automakers are flooding to the Deep South for cheap, union-free labour

State of the anti-union

Billy Weeks/Reuters

When German executives from Volkswagen descended on Chattanooga, Tenn., last May for the grand opening of their $1-billion plant, they pointed to the warm Southern hospitality and the cultural amenities of life on the banks of the Tennessee River as key reasons for deciding to build their first North American auto assembly shop in 20 years on the site of a former wartime-era munitions factory in the Deep South.

Auto industry analysts pointed to other reasons the automaker chose Chattanooga: the region’s high unemployment and strong anti-union sentiment, which promised both a massive labour pool willing to work for cheap and more than half a billion dollars in government incentives—nearly $200,000 per worker. Luring Volkswagen, which promised to hire nearly 2,000 workers for as little as $14.50 an hour, was deemed a huge coup for the city of 170,000. Since the plant opened, the city’s unemployment rate has dropped from nine per cent to 7.3 per cent. Volkswagen-branded shirts became the city’s most coveted fashion item.

Volkswagen is merely the latest foreign automaker to target the southern U.S. for expansion into the North American market. It’s a trend that is profoundly reshaping the American manufacturing landscape, pushing the country’s auto belt south from Michigan and Ohio into the cotton fields and cow pastures of Alabama and Mississippi in search of cheaper labour and fewer costly union battles. It’s not the first time the industry has seen a shift to the South, as automakers decamped for places like Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri in the 1980s in search of cheap labour. But the present-day move appears both more profound and more lasting. For every job created by foreign automakers, mostly in the South, the Detroit Three have shed six jobs, nearly half in Michigan, according to the Center for Automotive Research. It’s a push that now threatens the future of high-paying manufacturing jobs in Canada, and maybe even the future of unionized workplaces.

The bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler and the rise of foreign automakers, almost exclusively heading to the southern states, have forced a steady stream of concessions from the United Auto Workers union, including multi-year pay freezes, major changes to benefits and pensions and so-called two-tier wages, where new hires at the Detroit Three make roughly half the hourly wages of their coworkers and, in some cases, less than their southern counterparts. Contracts with Ford, GM and Chrysler now start as low as $14.78 an hour. Some predict U.S. auto wages could fall even further.

“If Chrysler is receiving 10,000 applications for jobs at the lower-tier $14 per hour wage, that’s one indication that $14 per hour is still too high,” University of Michigan economist Mark Perry wrote in his blog. “That is, Chrysler could offer to pay less than $14 and still have an excess supply of workers.”

It’s not just manufacturing wages that have been under assault as the U.S. struggles to dig itself out of recession. Recently, legislators in Florida and Arizona debated slashing the minimum wage of restaurant servers to below $3 an hour as part of their strategy to be “open for business.”

“There is a race to the bottom that has been playing out sporadically in the United States for decades,” says Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a watchdog that tracks how states use financial incentives to attract companies. “The difference we see right now is because the number of major deals is depressed, the ability of companies to play states against each other, what we call job blackmail, that activity is up.”

All of that has made Canadian workers, for years the poor cousins to their U.S. counterparts, seem overpaid by comparison. The Center for Automotive Research in Michigan calculated that Detroit UAW auto workers now cost $7 an hour less than their Canadian counterparts, a discrepancy that has only been exacerbated by the strong loonie. University of Windsor business professor Tony Faria estimates that with benefits, Canadian auto workers cost as much as $12 an hour more than Americans. Data from Cerno Research, a division of Owen Media Partners and Compdata Surveys, which tracks manufacturing wages, show the average pay differential for Canadian manufacturing workers runs anywhere from $2.80 an hour for warehouse employees to $9.13 an hour for production equipment operators. Where Canadian manufacturing workers differ the most from their U.S. counterparts is on the top end of the pay scale. In Canada, machine operators make as much as $40 an hour, compared to just $17 in the U.S. “We’re out of whack right now,” says Faria.“We really can’t compete with Mexico. But we can and we do have to compete with hourly wage rates in the U.S.”

That discrepancy is hitting us where it hurts. Last year, automotive manufacturers invested more than $1 billion in the U.S. and virtually nothing in Canada. This February, auto production surged 57 per cent in the U.S. and just four per cent in Canada. Canada’s manufacturing trade surplus with the U.S. has gone from $66 billion in 2002 to $20 billion in 2011. Our trade deficit in manufacturing with the southern U.S. has grown from $1.8 billion in 2002 to almost $10 billion last year.

The Canadian-bred CEO of Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, made it clear he expects the company’s Canadian workers to make the same concessions as their counterparts across the Detroit River in contract negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers this summer. “We will not tolerate a differential in cost positions between Canada and the United States,” he told the North American International Auto Show in January. “I lived through the introduction of the Free Trade Agreement. I lived through the loonie that was worth more than the U.S. dollar. I lived through one that was worth 60 cents. We all know how we got there. We all know how we maintain competitiveness in those times.”

It’s a reality that hit home last month, when U.S.-based Caterpillar shut down its Electro-Motive factory in London, Ont., after asking its 450 workers to slash their $30-an-hour wages in half. The company later shifted production to Brazil and to Muncie, Ind., where legions of unemployed workers lined up to earn a starting wage of just $12 an hour. “For many workers in a state like Indiana, you have a reserve army of people who are willing to work for pretty low wages just to put food on the table,” says Robert Scott of the D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute. That is sending a message to unionized workers in southern Ontario: be afraid.

Since attracting Mercedes-Benz in 1997, Alabama has built one of the largest automotive industries in the country out of virtually nothing. The state is now home to both Honda and Hyundai. When Toyota was looking to build its first V8 engine plant outside of Japan, it chose Alabama for the $200-million factory.

The state has added roughly 15,000 automotive assembly jobs since 2000; now Alabama is poised to become the country’s third-largest auto producer.

And there remains a seemingly inexhaustible supply of workers. Last July, the employment agency tasked with finding 500 temporary Mercedes workers to build SUVs for $14.50 an hour—a job requiring at least two years’ manufacturing experience—had nearly 4,000 applicants before it had even opened the doors of its Tuscaloosa office.

Southeastern states have among the lowest cost of living and the lowest energy costs in the U.S., making it comparatively easy to work for what amounts to a few dollars above Ontario’s $10.25 minimum wage. (The average home in Alabama sells for just $133,000, compared to $372,000 across Canada.)

But beneath the lure of cheap labour is another issue that has helped push America’s manufacturing heartland to the south, one that is quickly reshaping the industrialized labour movement in the north. Just five days before Caterpillar moved its operations to Indiana, the state became the 23rd U.S. state to enact so-called right-to-work legislation, which makes it optional for employees in unionized workforces to join the union or pay dues.

In courting Volkswagen, Tennessee officials relied heavily on their state’s anti-union legislation. “We are a right-to-work state with extremely low business costs,” Chattanooga’s economic development organization wrote in a presentation to car company executives. “Our large labour pool and lower union participation add up to savings you can bank on year after year.”

Union participation has been on the front line of the war for U.S. jobs. The right-leaning National Institute for Labor Relations Research in Virginia found that in the past decade employment grew in right-to-work states even as it fell in others. The Martin Prosperity Institute found that the fastest post-recession job growth has been in cities with the lowest levels of unionization.

The UAW, whose share of auto assembly plants and their workers has fallen precipitously since the 1980s, knows just how serious an issue right-to-work legislation has become for the industry, and just how much the southern states are shaping the future of automotive manufacturing. The union has organized several drives to unionize southern plants, including passing out signature cards to 800 new employees at Volkswagen in Tennessee this month and organizing an “open house dialogue” at Mercedes-Benz in Alabama this week.

The automakers have responded by throwing perks at their employees. At Mercedes in Alabama, workers get regular profit-sharing bonuses in the thousands of dollars, as well as health benefits, a subsidized onsite daycare and the ability to lease a Mercedes car at a discount. Few workers seem interested in joining a union, says Steven Allen, who worked inside the plant for years for a supplier. “They were proud to work there. They’re told when they’re hired that they’re the best, and if people don’t work there it’s because ‘they’re not good enough and you are.’”

Right-to-work legislation, which has existed since the Second World War, has quickly become one of the most hotly debated topics in state legislatures as they look to coax companies across their borders. Missouri, which is suffering its own downturn in manufacturing employment, is in the midst of a debate over right-to-work laws. And even lawmakers in Michigan—the embattled heartland of the American labour movement—have been pushing for such laws, with polls showing as many as 60 per cent of voters supporting them.

The public debate over the future of unions tends to come and go in tandem with recessions, according to Mark Sweeney of McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a South Carolina site selector that helps manufacturers in both Canada and the U.S. decide where to set up operations. But Sweeney thinks the tide of U.S. public opinion may have permanently turning against organized labour. “The pendulum swings depending on the economy, if unemployment is high or if there is full employment,” he says. “But I suspect this is a bit more than a pendulum swing. It might be a reconsideration of the whole concept of labour management compared to what it was 100 years ago.”

Not surprisingly, Sweeney says, almost all his manufacturing clients prefer to run non-unionized workplaces, with about half insisting that they won’t even consider areas that don’t have right-to-work laws. There are always other considerations for companies looking to set up across the border in Canada, but companies are avoiding locations in Ontario in favour of right-to-work states, Sweeney says. “If we’re starting out early and somebody says we’re looking in the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada for manufacturing and we’re interested in a non-union environment, [Ontario] could be subject to that same kind of early decision-making,” he says. “It’s a really touchy situation for policymakers and it’s not an easy situation. But just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean that it isn’t the way these decisions are being made.”

Ontario and Alberta both flirted with the idea of doing away with mandatory union dues in the 1990s. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall mused about making dues voluntary during last year’s provincial election. But there has not been a serious political push to introduce American-style right-to-work laws in Canada. Still, the country’s largest private sector union is watching the issue closely as it heads into contract negotiations. “America is the only country in the industrialized world where someone in a high-skilled, high-value, heavy industry will work for a poverty-level wage,” says Canadian Auto Workers economist Jim Stanford. “Does our government actually think it’s a good idea that high-skilled manufacturing workers should be paid $12 an hour? If they think so, then just stand back and let this continue to happen.” Like it or not, they may have no choice.


State of the anti-union

  1. Some good points.  Canadians could make due with lower wages if we weren’t paying 20 – 30% more for the the same products sold across the border…..

  2. Supply and demand. Who could have guessed?

    • Yes….the problem is that when the economy is good, we worker bees start actually believing we are “worth” those top dollars they are paying us.  It is such a cruel reality when the a recession hits and we realize that we are only really worth what the market will bear.  Guess we should have saved some money when we had the chance.

    • And government subsidies to business…

  3. Where do people think our children will end up? This race to the bottom will also include the stock market value. So those smug ” I’m alright screw every union member” people will also lose their wealth but don’t tell them. Keep investing in the emerging market’s and shot off the other foot. Greed is driving this herd mentality and the rooster is coming home in exactly 6 years. That’s all you bank on.

    • Hopefully “our children” will take an economics course and tus realize that you are a retard.

      • Only a retard thinks the race to the bottom is a good thing, how does one buy the cars on 12$ an hour,  This is a spril only a retard would  follow.  In a few generations America will become a third world .  It was the unions and there resuloting growth of the middle class that made us wealthy. America has falllen ever since we began the attack on the unions because trhe produce balance to the excesses of the rich.  ps i have a economics degree and the rich are not following sound economics but more like the art of war divide and conquor

      • Right wing bigot takes Economics 100, scrapes a B-, thinks himself an expert on all economic matters

  4. Thanks Macleans editors for this article. I’ll be taking a good look and test drive an American made Volkswagon when buying my next vehicle.

    • Japanese cars made in Ontario by non-union workers have always been better than US cars made by higher paid union workers. 

      • Today all major auto manufacturers make good products… take a look at GM’s Oshawa facility constantly winning awards for best facility in the Western hemisphere. The old adage that Japanese companies make the best is gone, especially after the recalls they had in the last couple of years. 

        • I think the Koreans are the current competition to worry about.  Hyundai and Kia offer great products at reasonable prices, with outstanding warranties.  Their cars are consistenly rating high.  A person would like to buy Canadian but not if that means compromising on quality and taking a big hit to the pocket book, just to buy a product thats only advantage is that it is made in Canada.

        • The only award worth winning is the one for consumer sales. GM went bankrupt. It exists only on money extorted from taxpayers.

  5. The US is an interesting economy and it knows how to adapt. The war is on to attract jobs and the town around the car plant will flourish. They took those jobs and now people are getting skilled which builds knowledge for their kids. Either have global pay rates or stop allowing cheap Chinese goods into the market place.

  6. People might by herding into $14/hr jobs now. But this is all a cycle. Manufacturing will no longer attract the highly skilled in the future as prospects turn to better employment. Many of these workers were drawn into the field by the relatively higher wages and benefits they could obtain. Now, the only incentive is to survive. Once survival isn’t an issue for the majority, many of the best and brightest will look to better jobs and move away from the industry. Then manufacturers will have to start increasing wages to retain and attract good workers. If they hesitate, they’ll find themselves short-staffed and pressed to raise wages even higher to quickly compensate. Eventually, we’ll be back in this same spot discussing the ramifications of the race to the bottom. 

    I don’t have a firm position on unions, but stability is good for everyone. The reality though, is we are short-sighted beings. We have to concern ourselves with survival first and any threats to that. Forever will we be subject to the wild swings of markets.

  7. In a race to the bottom we all lose.

  8. Unions are a blight.  Take a look at the wreckage that now is Detroit and you will see what I mean.

    If the more left-leaning states won’t get rid of the legislation that props up unions (i.e. the legislation that forces all employees to pay union dues whether they want to be a member or not), then jobs  will move to the less left-leaning states.  In the end, the union parasite kills its host.  Take heed, Canada.

    •  Enjoying your weekend?

      Thank a union.

      • Yes, you’re right, the concept of taking a day of rest on the Jewish and Christian Sabbath days, as well as holidays such as Good Friday, came from unions. Good grief.

          • Actually no, it didn’t. People have been resting on the Sabbath for thousands of years. People have been resting on both Saturday and Sunday in Western countries since at least Medieval times.

            Quoting your very own link: “The present-day concept of the weekend first arose from the Dies Solis (Day of the Sun) decreed by Constantine, and the Biblical Sabbath. The weekend in Western countries comprises Saturday and Sunday, when most employees do not have to work. Whereas the Sabbath itself was just one day each week, the preceding day also came to be taken as a holiday, because it was considered necessary to do preparatory tasks at home that would permit proper Sabbath observance the next day. (Luke 23:54)”

            You should probably read ’em before you post ’em.

          •  Mmm no, sorry. It took a lot to even get time off to go to church…think of servants in England.

            Now read the section where unions got weekends off for everybody.

            Read em before you answer.

          • In Victorian England, yes. In the Catholic and High-Anglican England which preceded it, no. It is mandatory for Catholics to take a day of rest on the Sabbath. It is likewise mandatory for Jews. Christians also often took Saturday off since the Sabbath, for us, begins part way through Saturday. This religious tradition dates back to early Christian times, and was in fact legally enforced in medieval times in Christian countries. A carry-over of this is the laws that kept stores closed on Sundays until recent decades.

            You are failing to notice that while unions negotiated a 5-day standard workweek for many factory workers in the US, (a) they already took Sundays off as a matter of course, and (b) in Christian countries throughout Western Europe, a 5-day workweek was standard long before unions. Again your own link says this explicitly in the passage I quoted above . Also standard were days off work for every major religious holiday. Hence the term “holiday”, from “Holy Day”.

            So perhaps if you’re enjoying your weekend, you should thank a religion. :)

            Also, I notice you reference Wikipedia a lot. You may want to stop doing this. Since anyone can edit it, it’s not a reliable source on anything. You’d be automatically failed if you did this in an academic setting.

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus

            Unions are responsible for weekends, 40 hour weeks, holidays, decent pay and all the rest of the things you take for granted.

            Religions are responsible for zik-all

            Wikipedia btw is just as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica so cease being snobby.

          • (1) Again, as per your own link, the concept of the weekend dates at least as far back as the Emperor Constantine. He reigned in the 4th century. I’m not aware of any trade unions back then. Are you?

            (2) I don’t take “40 hour weeks” for granted, since I typically work 60 hour weeks.

            (3) Holidays, by their very definition, are the modern-day descendant of “Holy Days”, i.e. religious feastdays which were days off from work akin to the Sabbath, e.g. Christmas. For reference I refer you to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which defines “holiday” as “: a day on which one is exempt from work; specifically : a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event….Origin of HOLIDAY: Middle English, from Old English hāligdæg, from hālig holy + dæg day
            First Known Use: before 12th century” (emphasis mine)

            (3) decent pay. Well, to be decently paid one must first have a job. To have a job, one must be able to provide a service which provides profit to someone. Unions have successfully rendered unionized services so expensive and wrapped in red tape that it is more profitable for companies to find other locales. The result is unemployment in highly unionized areas. See Detroit for example. Read the article we’re commenting about for further examples.

            (4) “Religions are responsible for zik-all”
            One might think that this comment indicates extreme bias. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it indicates extreme ignorance instead. Other than weekends, and in fact the entire concept of a mandated weekly “day of rest” or “Sabbath”, as we’ve been discussing, one could point to feats of architecture like Saint Peter’s Basilica, art such as the Pieta or Sistine Chapel, music such as the Missa Secunda, the so-called “Jesuit science” of seismology, the huge network of religious hospitals and charities, the foundation of many of the world’s best and first universities, the preservation of much of the world’s literature through the painstaking work of countless monks illuminating and copying manuscripts before the printing press (from which we get the word “clerks”, formerly known “clerics”), et cetera and so forth. Perhaps it’s best if we pretend you didn’t actually write down that bit of inanity.

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus

            As long as you insist on reading one para, and nothing else you won’t get anywhere. But then again, you don’t want to.

            In the Middle Ages unions were called guilds.

            No, art work doesn’t cut it against things like the Inquistion and stake burnings i’m afraid.

            And the printing press was invented in China in about 1000 CE

          • This may surprise you, but I actually did read your entire Wikipedia page. As pointed out above it clearly states that the concept of a weekend predates union activism, being rather a result of religious belief in the Sabbath which was formalized by the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine. Not in response to strikes from trade unions, or even guilds, but rather due to the religious doctrines to which he adhered.

            Something else that may surprise you: torture and execution predate Christianity. Even if one believes that the net effect of religion has been bad, to say that religion has contributed “zik-all” would still be false given, as listed above, all the contributions of religion to art, music, architecture, science, medical care, literature, charities, the weekend, (and in fact the entire Gregorian calendar), civil rights, universities, preservation of knowledge, etc. Again, these are not “zik-all”. They are at least “zik-some”, and some would say they’re actually “zik-a-hell-of-a-lot-more-than-atheism”.

            The printing press was invented in AD 1000, yes. And monks were copying and illuminating manuscripts for 800 years prior to that. And it didn’t come into general use until the Middle Ages, when it was first used to print the Bible. So if you’ve ever read a book written more than 500 years ago, thank a monk!

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus

            Nope….you insist on remaining in your religious bubble, so it’s your problem not mine.

            It clearly says unions in NA instituted weekends for everyone, but you skip over that.

            Lots of things pre-dated christianity….Xmas, Easter, laws and time-off….along with all the other things you listed….science, medical care, universities etc

            And all of those people were ‘atheists’ m’dear.

            Books were hand-copied all over the ancient world, long before monks…..monks often copied over math theories of the Greeks and others…bloody ignorant barbarians that they were.

            ‘General use’ = white European members of the Dark Ages.

          • No, what it clearly says, and I quote, is that “The present-day concept of the weekend first arose from the Dies Solis (Day of the Sun) decreed by Constantine, and the Biblical Sabbath.”

            Yes, lots of things pre-dated Christianity. And Christianity made tremendous contributions to many of those things, such as the arts, science, medical care, the formation of universities, literature, the preservation of older literature, the weekend, leadership of the civil rights movement, etc.

            Very few people prior to Christianity were “atheists”, actually. Most worshiped gods of one form or another. Atheism didn’t really become an explicitly predominant ideology within any well-documented nation state until the advent of Communism. Which, we all remember, was responsible for the murders of hundreds of millions of people throughout Asia and Europe in less than a single century. Truly remarkable.

            Books were not generally copied in the ancient world, which is why for example the burning of the Library of Alexandria was such a tragedy – the books inside it were lost forever. Monks, however, devoted their lives to copying and beautifying (i.e. “illuminating” with intricate artwork) books so that they could be distributed to many libraries rather than being held in only one. Again, this is where the word “clerk” comes from: “cleric”. You ought to meet and thank one before you castigate them as “bloody ignorant barbarians”.

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus
            And I repeat…as long as you refuse to read further, you will be confused.

            Hey, your choice.

            ‘Christians’ in the Roman Empire were considered atheists because they didn’t worship the Roman gods

            Pagans never worshipped your nonsense at all

            Communism and atheism have no connection….sorry.

            Christianity has held back progress and civilization by at least 2000 years….not contributors….active roadblocks.

            The library at Alexandria wasn’t lost….it was copied by the Arabs….people living in a Golden Age of knowledge while Europe hunted witches, and  fumbled in the Dark Age

            Clerk btw means anyone who was literate…current surname is Clark…most common surname in Europe…..often priests who were taught to read when no one else was.

            Something the Reformation corrected.

          • An atheist is one who believes there is no God. Christians don’t fit that description. Neither do most pagans.

            Communism as implemented in Soviet Russia, Maoist China, Cuba, Albania, Vietnam, etc. was explicitly atheist. It was also the implementation responsible for millions of murders, many of those being priests and religious who were hunted down and killed.

            “Christianity has held back progress and civilization by at least 2000 years….not contributors….active roadblocks.”
            Ok, then it follows that societies that were never penetrated by Christianity are 2000 years ahead of those that were. The tribes of West Papua New Guinea, for example, are therefore 2000 years more advanced than Western Europe. Seems right!

            The Library of Alexandria was mostly lost, although some works survived the fire. It is unknown whether the Caliph Omar is the one who gave the order to have it burned, as several Arab sources claim.

            Priests were indeed the literati and the scholars prior to the Middle Ages, which is why they and the monks who copied books are the ones to whom you owe thanks for the preservation of learning and literature. Nobles were also taught to read, as was anyone who studied at a seminary (seminaries being the only places in Europe running schools and universities at the time). However nobles did not generally work to spread and preserve human knowledge – that task was left to those who were working for a good higher than themselves: clerics.

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus
            Atheists have always been non-believers….and that’s what christians were considered to be in Rome.

            That’s what christians considered pagans to be.

            Hey, what goes around, comes around.

            Communism…and nazism…have nothing to do with atheists. Both Hitler and Stalin were devout….Stalin was even a seminary student.

            It wasn’t the belief in a ‘god’ that was in question….it was the power of the church…the religion….that was the problem.

            They tended to back the govt….the czars etc….not the new order

            No one has ever killed anyone in the name of atheism….but millions have been killed in the name of religion.

            I know you’re trying to be cute here….but in 1500 CE, China had the highest GDP in the world….no christianity.

            All civilizations…..not the pipsqueak NA newbies…have had ups and downs….it has nothing to do with christianity.

            No, the library at Alexandria wasn’t burnt by Muslims….and it’s survived.

            Priests were never literati…. semi-literacy doesn’t qualify as knowledge.

            The Arab world gave the Dark Ages a boost up, by supplying everything that people thought had died with Rome. and Greece.  We rewarded them by starting a Crusade.

            Monks copied over valuable manuscripts and taught utter nonsense.

            If the christian religion….or rather the disaster that was made of christianity….hadn’t existed. we’d be eons ahead in progress by now

          • That’s not what “atheism” means. It literally means “belief in no God”, not “belief in some other God”.

            As mentioned, Communism in the USSR, Maoist China, Albania, Vietnam, etc. was explicitly atheist. Stalin was a seminary student prior to becoming a Communist, he was not “devout”, or religious at all, as leader of the USSR. To quote your favorite source Wikipedia, which you tell me is as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica:

            “Stalin followed the position adopted by Lenin that religion was an opiate that needed to be removed in order to construct the ideal communist society. His government promoted atheism through special atheistic education in schools, anti-religious propaganda, the antireligious work of public institutions (Society of the Godless), discriminatory laws, and a terror campaign against religious believers. By the late 1930s it had become dangerous to be publicly associated with religion.”

            “No one has ever killed anyone in the name of atheism…”

            From the Soviet Union alone, again according to your favorite source Wikipedia:

            Historians working after the Soviet Union’s dissolution have estimated victim totals ranging from approximately 4 million to nearly 10 million, not including those who died in famines.[101] Russian writer Vadim Erlikman, for example, makes the following estimates: executions, 1.5 million; gulags, 5 million; deportations, 1.7 million out of 7.5 million deported; and POWs and German civilians, 1 million – a total of about 9 million victims of repression.”

            As to China, given that the country has never seen much in the way of Christian influence, I suppose it’s 2000 years ahead of us as well? Seems right! Them and Papua New Guinea. Perhaps someday us backward North American and European nations will catch up.

            “The Arab world gave the Dark Ages a boost up, by supplying everything that people thought had died with Rome. and Greece.”

            Let us suppose that this is true. The Arabs were distinctly Islamic at this point. Voila! Religion contributes zik-something again!

            I hope that one day you get the opportunity to look at a work of literature copied and preserved by a Dark Ages monk. It is a thing of beauty to behold, and but for them these works would have been lost forever.

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus

            I’ve been an atheist for over 40 years so I know exactly what it means….and what it’s meant in previous societies.

            Stalin and Hitler were both devout christians…although i can see why you’d want to palm them off….however, it won’t work.

            Further reading, which I know you’re loathe to do, would show you that the church existed under Stalin, and was used by him to promote his own ends.  Far from disappearing it gained strength…but then the church always was a whore.

            Again, no one has ever been killed in the name of atheism….Soviets and Nazis alike had quite different concerns than wiping out religion.

            I guess you’ve never heard of the 20 million that died in China because of Jesus’ younger brother eh?

            However, China had advanced civil service exams when your ancestors were running around in bear skins.

            China gave us most of the things we use today…and the Arabs were the rest of it.

            Mohammed said the blood of a scholar was worth more than that of a martyr….the opposite of christianity as it’s been taught.

            No, the works wouldn’t have been lost….both Romans and Arabs passed on all those works….the monks damaged old books to spread crap.

          • Are you saying Wikipedia is wrong in its claim that:

            “Stalin followed the position adopted by Lenin that religion was an opiate that needed to be removed in order to construct the ideal communist society. His government promoted atheism through special atheistic education in schools, anti-religious propaganda, the antireligious work of public institutions (Society of the Godless), discriminatory laws, and a terror campaign against religious believers. By the late 1930s it had become dangerous to be publicly associated with religion.” link

            I thought you said Wikipedia was as accurate as the Enyclopedia Britannica!

          • @Gaunilon:disqus

            Hey babe, you want something different?

            Of greater significance was the reconciliation with the Russian Orthodox Church, the traditional bastion of Russian nationalism and the tsarist regime, which now
            became associated with the cult of Stalin and resumed its role as a state church.

            Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, ISBN 0‐394‐58601‐8),
            chapter, Stalin’s New Order, pp 906‐907, on Stalin’s
            wartime reconciliation with the church, showing that the the atheism of the communist party had nothing to do with the treatment accorded religions or the religious during Stalin’s regime

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus

            Or how about this?

            The attack
            on the peasant economy was accompanied by a fierce campaign against the
            Orthodox Church, the center of 
            traditional peasant culture, which was seen by
            the Stalinist leadership as one of the main obstacles to collectivization.

            Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, ISBN 0‐394‐58601‐8),
            p. 264, in the chapter Stalin’s Revolution, showing that Stalin’s motivation
            for destroying churches was because of their threat to his political plans and
            not communistic atheism

          • I’m confused. Are we still saying that Stalin was devoutly religious and that the Church whorishly thrived under his authority? Or are we now saying that Stalin attacked religion, but only because it was a political threat and not because of communist atheism?

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus

            Yes, you’re confused.

            But then you started out telling me that white christians were the natural rulers of the world… your mental chaos was bound to happen when you discovered reality.

          • Hmmm. No, I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that. But back to the question: are we still saying that Stalin was devoutly religious and that the Church whorishly thrived under his authority? Or are we now saying that Stalin attacked religion, but only because it was a political threat and not because of communist atheism?

          •  @Gaunilon:disqus

            Yes, that’s exactly what you’ve been saying.

            Stalin was a believer, but he opposed the Russian Orthodox church itself, as it supported the czars.

            Later he used the church to promote his own ends.

          • People also had dozens of holidays a year when they were agrarian peasants in pre-capitalist times.

            Capitalism re-oriented our relationships to time.  Fundamentally so.

            Working class people worked 7 days a week for as many as 12-16 hours.  This phenomenon persists in anti-union, low-rights regions today – see exporting processing zones in South East Asia.

            Unions helped to recalibrate our work life balance. 

            Maybe you should be honest about the faults of capitalism.  Capitalism is not evil.  But it has laws of motion that speak to longer hours of work and less entitlements for people.

            You blame the laws of motion of capitalism on unions.  That’s bizarre and misdirected.

          • That doesn’t mean it was legislated.  In the same link: “The American concept of the weekend has its roots in labor union attempts to accommodate Jewish workers who took Saturday instead of Sunday as their Sabbath.[9] The first five-day work week was instituted by a New England cotton mill for this reason.  In 1929 the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was the first union to demand a five-day work week and receive it. After that, the rest of the United States slowly followed, but it wasn’t until 1940 that the two-day weekend began nationwide.”  

            Maybe you should read “’em” before you post them? 

          • OE1, when your own reference erodes your point, don’t try to pull a Palinesque deflection. Only Fox News gets to construct its own reality. You don’t get to redefine the meaning of terms when your argument fails e.g. atheism.

            Gaunilon: Stalin and Hitler killed a lot of people for many reasons, but it had little to do with the nominal atheism of their parties. You’re smart enough to know that, so why argue such a weak position?

          • (1) I never brought up Hitler. Emily did, and I’m not sure why.

            (2) I was making the point that religion has indisputuably contributed worthwhile things to the world, whereas Emily was claiming it has contributed “zik-all”. Then I made the further point that the only atheist regimes I know of were more famous for their atrocities than anything worthwhile. Capische?

          •  @608c37be065defa73656d7ff271d34c8:disqus

            I did…you just lost track.

            “Communism…and nazism…have nothing to do with atheists. Both
            Hitler and Stalin were devout….Stalin was even a seminary student.

            It wasn’t the belief in a ‘god’ that was in question….it was the power of the church…the religion….that was the problem.

            They tended to back the govt….the czars etc….not the new order

            No one has ever killed anyone in the name of atheism….but millions have been killed in the name of religion.”

          • Gaunilon:
            You’re saying the 8 hour workday, the 40 hour work week came from Jewish and Christian holidays? You’re just plain wrong on that one. Do you like sick days? Thank unions. Minimum wage? Yup. Because these battles, fought by unions, happened a few generations ago, people think that the lifestyle we enjoy is somehow guided by our own abilites and the vagaries of the “market”. This standard of living can, and will be taken away unless we use the only means at our disposable: our ability to assemble and collectively dicate terms. Unless you’re really rich or maybe have a politician father. Unfrotunately, I’ve neither of those things.

      • Umm, thank Bismark.

        •  Noop, not even close. He was pensions.

  9. Hooray, it’s sundown on Canadian private sector unions. Now if only we can find some way to force the thieves running public sector unions to acknowledge the reality that taxpayers will push back. Spineless Ottawa Mayor Watson has just succumbed to the transit union giving them four years of pay raises so as to avoid the threat of strikes. The solution is to kick out gutless politicians and privatize public transport and make employees operate in a free market labour pool. 

    •  Are we getting the Robber Barons back too?

  10. what you are all over looking is, it’s the companies the win all round, CEO’s and board members get more money, for doing nothing,

  11. Problem is in the States no one can afford medical insurance or anything else on that wage.  Right to work states will go bankrupt because they just don’t get that people making $14 an hour pay next to nothing for taxes.  These companies will go elsewhere as soon as they see cheaper labour somewhere else.  This is the great promise of the free enterprise system that has been hyjacked by big business.  When do you intend to see the light folks?

  12. The time of the unions is disappearing. They have largely collapsed in the private sector. Mostly, this is do to their shortsightedness of not knowing how to pick and choose their battles. Labor warfare just for the sake of pushing a class agenda(I hate business owners) will get you nothing. It played a large part in Thatcher’s success against them. The union’s have now been reduced to being a mostly public sector phenom. Very interesting, since there are an unusually large number of these public sector unionized workers that are white collar.On the one hand, this gives them a greater influence in public policy. On the other hand, it can lead to less public support for them(since it can be argued that the public is in fact the real bosses of the public sector worker). No less union supporting politicians than FDR and Truman opposed public sector workers being unionized.It also means that the necessary downsizing of government that is taking place will further weaken unions.

    If you look at the world’s economies you will see that countries like Australia and New Zealand are among the ones in the best shape. Australia has only a 5-5.5% unemployment rate. In both countries(especially Australia), the unions have been gravely weakened. In Australia, the size of the government has been decreased to 33% of GDP and the workforce is only 15% unionized(compared to 30 years ago, when it was over 50%).  Both the Conservative coalition and the Labor Party are increasingly dominated by business interests. In fact, the Labor Party which was originally founded as a pro-union socialist has gone out of its way to court business. Several months ago, a Australian columnist was pointing out how much further to the right the Labor Party’s economic platform was compared to its early years(around 1910 or so). In fact, Labor’s current election problems are the result of its few progressive polices. It implemented an unpopular carbon tax after saying it wouldn’t. Also, it ran up $167 billion dollars in debt over 5 years(after the previous Conservative coalition government had paid off the national debt). The result is that Labor is being easily outpolled 57%-43%(with elections expected within a year) and are promising to balance the budget in one year. The expected  Conservative victory will really thrill Emily since the current Conservative leader is a former Catholic seminarian who is a pro-life social conservative as well as an economic right-winger.

    The United States has a troubled economy with a large debt. However, if you look at individual states, you will notice that generally the states with both republican governors and republican state legislatures are doing better than the Democrat or divided government ones. Look at the individual states that have done best at reducing debt and unemployment. You will see that they are largely Republican controlled states. California and Illinois(both Solidly Democrat controlled) are basketcases. The same goes for New York state(Democrat Governor and split legislature). In the most liberal part of the country(the northeast), the two states that are doing best are New Hampshire (where a Republican controlled legislature of almost 3 to 1 constantly overrides the Democrat governor) and Maine(Republican governor and Republican legislature). Also, look at the improvements that have taken place in southern states like Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama,and Florida since November 2010. In 2012, 11 governorships are up for election(3 Republican held and 8 Democrat held). The Republicans are expected to win 7 or 8 of these(including all 3 of their current ones). Why is this? Its because the Republican policies are having more success at the statehouse level. It also helps that conservative candidates can point to countries like Greece and Spain as places where the Socialist Party and its policies have dominated since the mid 1970’s.

    •  LOL what the hell does ‘left or right’ even mean any more?  Do you know?

      Harper is selling oil to the Chinese….we trade with the Russians.

      And the same conditions exist in all other countries.

      So don’t tell me what ‘Emily’ thinks or doesn’t think….because you haven’t the faintest idea what YOU even think, much less anyone else.

      The Cold War is dead….move on.

  13. Doug, you can only compare Canadians and Australians to a very limited degree. The battle in Australia was always between the Socialists(Labor) and the non-Socialists. The non-Socialists had their own differences. The Liberal Party and its forerunners(formerly United Australia) were pro-business freetraders.  Meanwhile, the National Party(formerly Country Party) were socially conservative high tariff types whose strength came from the rurual areas. The various Liberal/ Country coalitions were successful in keeping the Conservative coalition in power for 65 out of 82 years between 1901-1983. Also, the Labor Party was for most of the 1950’s and 60’s weakened by a splinter political party called the Democratic Labor Party. This party leaned to the left economically but was both socially conservative and strongly anti-communist. In 1983, Labor came to power after having ruled for only 3 of the last 34 years. They stayed in power for 13 years(their longest period of rule ever) by governing to the right on economic issues. They cut taxes, deregulate industry, privatize some businesses, and actually passed some anti-union legislation. They balanced it with a more moderate center-left social policy. They continued some of the policies of the last previous Labor government(Whitlam 1972-1975) by completely removing the death penalty from the law books and extending gay rights. However, they did nothing to overturn Australia’s abortion laws, remove prayer from schools, or end government funding of religious schools. In 1996, A Conservative government came in under Howard. It lasted 11 years. During that time, it paid off the national debt, lowered the tax rate, and sold off practically every crown corporation to the private sector. It also increased funding for religious schools and established a program allowing ministers to act as kind of like guidance counselors in public schools. This history is far different is far from Canada.

    In Canada, you have had the left dominating the political landscape since 1935(although Harper now seems to be pushing the country back towards the right). This has allowed the left more time to push their agenda. Over time, the Liberal Party became the tool to push NDP policies at a speed that made Canadians comfortable. Second, ther is no mass seperatist movement in Australia. The country is united by one common official language. The aborigines have their own culture but no desire to seperate(also they make up only 2% of population) This makes it easier for a party to win government with over 50% support. Third, there is less animosity in Australian politics because of the lower level of religious conflict. 64% of Australians are Christian(though less than 10% attend weekly mass) and 30% atheist, agnostics, or won’t disclose. In Australia, there is no real seperation of church and state in the founding documents. They have school prayer, religious instruction in all schools, and government funding. This satisfies religious Australians who are concerned about the values their children are learning in the schools. Atheists have the right to opt out of these. Also, Australia has a history of going so far as to elect atheists(Gillard the current one, also Bob Hawke, and Whitlam). Don’t remember any atheist Canadian leaders? The Australian rule is that anyone can be prime minister but the key is to largely keep the social issues out of it.  In addition, christians haven’t been very in people’s faces with their faith there. Its why Australia has an atheist prime minister who supports religious instruction in the public schools.This middle ground seems to have kept the peace. Meanwhile, in Canada, you seem to have a divide between a shrinking Christian majority and a growing anti-christian minority. This minority seems to have a special hatred for christians. It could be due to the large role that the Catholic Church traditionally played over provincial affairs in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. The result is that Australia is a country where the political structure is more stable. There are only 3 political parties in parliment(Labor and it coalition opponents the Liberals and National Party). There is no seperatist party. The country has by and large avoided most of the culture war. Issues like school prayer, gun laws, and abortion laws are handled more at the state level. The result is that most states don’t allow abortion on demand(New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Western AUstralia) while others do(VIctoria, ACT, and South Australia). School prayer is legal in all states but gay marriage isn’t. Yet, Australia’s gun laws are generally tighter than Canada’s. The end result is that most disagreements come down to economics which generally favor the center-right Liberal Party. Its why the party has exterminated Labor in the last two state elections(Queensland Labor went from 51 to 7 seats, New South Wales Labor went from 50+ seats to 21 seats) and is expected to easily lose next year.

  14. It is only natural that the super inflated wages of the auto industry come crashing down. Unions were needed for sure but not to rape the company’s so that those company’s would have to pass the the buck on to us. I can only say good. Union workers have no argument if you are a union worker you should only be aloud to purchase union made products cars homes ect. Your union made home is now not 350,000 but 700,00. Just ask a western star enployee if striking every 6 months got them the dream they were after haha loosers western star left Canada good job guys.

    •  German workers make $50 an hour, and sit on the company board…yet Germany is doing just fine.

      • Yes…supply and demand.  You produce a stellar product like Benz, BMW and VW and your employer can charge top dollar and can pay you top dollar.  On the other hand, you produce a “meh” product like the majority of the North American vehicles and…..

        •  Well the workers don’t engineer the cars, or advertise them or sell them….they just put them together.

          • When a company offers a consistently innovative, high quality product, sales are high and EVERYONE in the company makes money.
            When the company gets lazy and innovation and quality falls by the wayside, sales drop, bankruptcy looms and paycuts hit all but those considered indispensible…it is the way of business.
            Gee, that makes me think, I wonder how many people at RIM are taking wage rollbacks….

          •  This would be a management problem.

          • Yes, it is a “management problem” but when the paycuts come because no money is coming in  to the company, it quickly becomes a “worker bee problem”.  Don’t you know sh**t always rolls downhill.

  15.   Seams like an awefully one sided article.

  16. High skilled workers making less than 25k is grotesque.  A huge percentage of Chinese workers (estimated between 20-30percent) experience wage or pension arrears in manufacturing.  Mexico has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs to China, which originally came from Southern Ontario and the American Rustbelt.  Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, etc., are all losing jobs to China.  And now, American states with huge levels of poverty and anti-worker legislation can compete.  God bless capitalism?

    Where lives symbolically migrate from place to place, withering into a deplorable form.

    I don’t want your future for my children #workingclassdeservesbetter

    • I think what we need to question is the definition of “highly skilled workers”.  These companies hire peopole with no education and no real skills.  They give them some training and then put them to work…each person performing the same task…over and over and over…
      They can relocate their plants to anywhere because people do not have to be highly educated or highly skilled, just ammenable to being trained on a machine. 
      That is why it is vital for your children and my children to get a real “skill” ….an education…be it as a mechanic, a carpenter, an engineer…when they say there is a shortage of skilled labor in Canada, this is what they are talking about.

      •  There is no question here…there are skilled and unskilled workers in all these places.

        A ‘skill’ is also different than an education.

        A shortage of skilled labour means not having the right skills.

        • Excuse me?  Technical schools all over this country are providing practical educations by teaching vocational skills, which result in a recognized professional designation…ie: a carpenter or a power engineer.
          Skilled labor means having skills that are consistent to the professional designation and transferable to more than one work site or situation.

          •  Welding is a job skill, it is not an education.

          • A “journeyman welder” receives that designation following a three year apprenticeship involving both classroom and on-site training.
            Each year, the “apprentice” works under a journeyman welder for a required number of hours and completes tasks that are in keeping with his/her knowledge level.  Once those hours are achieved, the apprentice then attends a technical school for 16 weeks or so and studies advanced information.  Upon completion, the apprentice writes examinations and if he/she passes, is elevated into the next year of their apprenticeship.  After three years, the apprentice writes their journeyman test.

            I am frankly a little shocked Emily, that you would not appreciate the importance of a smart, well-trained welder.  They have to have a high school diploma and have done some science in highschool or they have to do a pre-tech course to be allowed into the program.  These men and women are securing the joints on cars and bridges.  Just google Calgary’s Peace Bridge and you will find out what happens when you have inadequately trained welders on the job.

          •  Welding is a job skill, it is not an education

          • “Welding is a job skill, it is not an education”

            Well according to those hiring welders, it is a “skill” that requires 3 years of education and training to being proficient in……
            After that point, a journeyman “welder” has the consistent and transferable set of skills and required knowledge to work on his/her own at multiple work sites on multiple projects with all kinds of mediums, including plastic.

          •  Oh give it a rest….it is not history, language, geography, literature etc…’s a job skill, not an education.

          • “Give it a rest…”  I can’t…you have a very narrow definition of education…you believe it only occurs in a university.
            Oh, by the way SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) also offers a 2 year program of study (20 months long) in “welding engineering technology”….after that, a person goes out and gets a job as a welder.  Two years at tech school, does that qualify as an education?  It qualifies for a Canada student loan.  It qualifies for full-time student income tax deductions.

          •  Yes, you can.

            A nurse should be aware of the difference between a job-skill, and an education.

            Words with 2 quite different meanings. Like the difference between a refugee and an immigrant.

            If you don’t understand your own language, you shouldn’t be in nursing.

  17. The global market will always keep the organized private industry in check, just may take a little too long sometimes. The biggest treat to Canada’s economy is the un-checked unionisation of the non-competitive public sector, we need the “Right-to-work” legislation here more than in the private sector. The high cost of the Canadian public sector is making the private industry non-competitive and this is the sector that should be increasing its size to better serve the general public and to help with the down sizing of the manufacturing sector but is far too costly. Why does a College or Hospital CEO earn more than the Prime Minister, (Because they can) crazy
    Really good article Tamsin.


  18. We are all responsible for killing the goose that laid the golden egg in the auto industry and the sawmills in BC. There are three major causes.
    1) Greedy unions have made wages in these industries uncometetive compared to other jurisdictions.
    2) Multiple levels of government with taxing authority have done likewise.
    3)Multiple government agencies often with overlapping jurisdictions have added a huge burden to industry with fees, permits, studies and an incessant demand for meaningless reports. 
    Politicians have mostly gone along with this in an effort to buy votes from greenies and rich retirees that do not want anything disturbing their retirement.
    Now if citizens really cared they would not buy cheap goods from WallyWirld but would insist on expensive Canadian union made goods.

  19. Darwinism helps explain why religion has been an integral part of man’s moral and intellectual development, and why belief remains important to a sense of community. In its moderate forms, such as those that tend to prevail in the U.S. and Canada, it is a powerful and cohesive force. In its more radical forms, it remains dangerous, but belief in God would appear to be far less problematic than men who believe that they can intelligently design both the global economy and the weather. –
    Clearly the work to rule jurisdictions will make decisions where to invest ‘best outcomes’ of their capital. Socialists prefer the Robin Hood myth of wealth redistribution of someone’s else capital. A Robin Hood planning cabal because individuals are not as smart or capable of being responsible for their own choices. 

  20. A very interesting article and interesting comments

    A two year degree in a Technical Institute is every bit as valuable as a four year degree at a University. My neighbor, with a Tech education is working the oil patch in ND and is earning $96K/yr. He is 21 days on and 10 days off. How does that stack up in wages/benefits etc. against a 4 yr degree in liberal arts? He has minimal student loans.

    Manufacturing will continue to flee to Right to Work Provinces and States because the consumer refuses to pay the added cost of high union wages and business cannot continue to absorb the costs and still turn a profit, which is needed for viability and expansion.

    Alberta and Saskatchewan are toying with Right to Work legislation and this will attract manufacturers to their favorable economic climate. It makes far more sense to provide these economic benefits and have these plants built in the South, the Sun Belt and the Canadian Prairies than it does to build them in Asia

  21. Retard, retarded…I hear that word a lot since I moved to Southern Ontario 4 years ago…….makes me wonder!

  22. Very sad that people actually think that it is a good thing and okay for companies to demand that they are entitled to make more money but workers must not. Very sad.