We need more politicians like Bernie Sanders.
“Change, real change, never comes from the top down,” the 74-year-old Senator from Vermont said lately. “It always comes from the bottom on up. And the middle class does not grow unless the trade union movement grows.”
Here in Ontario, I don’t see our leaders talking about unions much. And they sure don’t talk about what life would be like without us.
There would be rich bosses. There would be poor workers. There would be no middle class.
I don’t hear any politician saying we need to make unions stronger to bring wages up. Seems to me, even politicians who call themselves “progressive” see good wages as a cost to society, not a benefit.
They’ve swallowed the bosses’ line.
The fact is, good wages and benefits help us all live decently, raise our families the way we should, and retire with dignity. Everybody needs them.
But good wages and benefits don’t come from the bosses’ generosity. In our capitalist economy, employers pay as little as they can. That’s why we need unions: to build our bargaining power. That’s how good jobs get made. That’s how you build the middle class.
In Ontario, the percentage of workers in unions has fallen from 31 per cent of the workforce in 1997 to 27 per cent in 2015. More and more people are in low-wage jobs. Yet at the same time, the top 100 CEOs in Canada are now raking in $9 million a year, on average.
We are seeing the middle class erode. Wages are frozen. Household debt is up. Adult children can’t afford to leave home.
Income inequality is way worse in the States, where just 11 per cent of workers have a union. Maybe that’s why Bernie Sanders is doing so well on the road to the White House.
Unlike his opponents, Bernie is not taking million-dollar donations from hedge-fund managers: Bernie is not for sale.
“There is something profoundly wrong when we have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest childhood poverty rate of nearly any developed country on earth,” he says.
Sanders has staked out a clear position. He’s pro-union, and more: he’s the bargaining agent for the 99 per cent.
I’d love to see a politician like that up here. I bet a bunch of us would.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU