On almost every issue trade union members are significantly more progressive than the other segments of the population. I suppose there are many reasons for this. Collective power probably gives union members the confidence to think more about the potential for changing things. Union education programs undoubtedly play a role. The democratic process of unions also requires members to discuss and debate issues.
So it should not come as a surprise that gaining employment in a unionized workplace would promote some leftward political movement among a proportion of the members. Of course one can overstate the political development of union members. Unionists may be twice as likely to vote for the NDP than the new Conservative Party, but a majority of union members still choose the Liberals as their first voting choice.
In many of the advanced economies, unions are in serious trouble. This crisis for unions is in part the result of changing workplaces and labour markets compounded by the hostility of employers and governments to unions.
It is an inescapable fact that, since the 1995 referendum, Québec politics have been dominated by two of Brian Mulroney’s former cabinet ministers. The first, Lucien Bouchard, made his way to the top post of the Parti Québécois (PQ) to replace the fallen Jacques Parizeau. The second, Jean Charest, a much younger politician, was pushed to the head of the Parti Libéral du Québec (PLQ) by the federal Liberals in order to fill the void left by the dull and uncharismatic Daniel Johnson Jr.
Recent political developments do not bode well for unionized public-sector workers. While the decisive defeat of the Tories in Ontario is welcome news, the actions of the provincial Liberals reveal they have no intention of undoing the damage inflicted by Mike Harris.
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