Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Missed Opportunities and Forgotten Futures:Why Union Renewal in Canada Has Stalled 57
CHARLOTTE A.B. YATES Missed Opportunities and Forgotten Futures: Why Union Renewal in Canada Has Stalled 1. Introduction The Canadian labour movement is often painted as the jewel in the North American labour crown, having mobilised protests against neo- liberal governments and anti-union employers and maintained a sizeable membership base. Unions in Canada are confronted with an abundance of opportunities for renewal but a dearth of capacity in revitalising their influence over the Canadian political economy. The opportunities stem from relatively stable union density, an in- creasingly diverse membership, the amassing of considerable union resources and the emergence of pockets of militant mobilised sections of the workforce. Yet the Canadian labour movement’s lack of imagined alternatives for the future combined with its dysfunctional organisational structure hamper its ability to nurture these oppor- tunities into renewed power and influence. This chapter develops this argument, beginning first with a brief description of the state of the union movement in Canada and then moving on to discussions of the opportunities for renewal and the roots of the Canadian labour movement’s lack of capacity. Charlotte A.B. Yates 58 2. A Typically Canadian Labour Movement: Stable or Stagnant? Compared to union movements across much of the industrialised West, and especially the Anglo-American democracies, Canadian union membership and density have remained remarkably stable, drifting downward only over the last decade (Fairbrother and Yates 2003, chapter 1). Between 1995 and 2005, total union membership increased modestly from 4,003,000 to 4,381,000 although union density dropped...
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