Old-school labour action, meet the 21st century

18Mar09

I recently completed some work that involved delving deep into labour-history theses at a couple of Ottawa-area schools. It’s great reading for people who care at all about unions (and labourers) and their struggles over the past, say, 120 years in Canada. I read through one opus that included 600+ pages of CAW and UAW history.

That particular PhD thesis shed some light on union tactics as they have evolved since the Great Depression. Different bargaining tactics, more and less disruptive strike action, etc.

I don’t care what you think about unions, but this is, for lack of a better term, old-school:

A group of disgruntled workers at a recently closed auto parts supply company in Windsor, Ont., have taken over the plant.

In the latest bizarre twist in a saga that has been brewing since two auto plants in the area shut down early last week, about a dozen workers occupied the Aradco plant Tuesday night. They have welded the doors shut from the inside and say they will not leave until they get what they are owed.

Work at the Aradco plant stopped last week because of a dispute between the plant owners and Chrysler, which has mused publicly about pulling out of its Canadian operations unless unionized workers make substantial concessions.

As part of that project, I read a few theses that examined editorial bias in labour-related stories and editorials in many of Canada’s newspapers.

Now, characterizing the news that workers are barricading themselves inside the plant as “the latest bizarre twist in a saga…” seems a bit, well, bizarre for the CBC. Those reporters should know that this kind of action isn’t alien to Canadian labour relations, and even if it were, calling it bizarre is still a bit inappropriate.

(I want to make clear that I don’t entirely fault the CBC writers here. On the surface, it is a bit bizarre for workers to literally weld themselves in to a building.)

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