February 11, 2006

Stop the Big Business Attack on Youth

Lets think big about youth and the labour movement for a moment.

Jason Mann

The fact is the wealth of Canada continues to grow but full time jobs for young people keep disappearing. It’s no surprise many young people are in debt because there is only part-time work at low pay available.

Young workers in Canada make up almost 18% of the work force but have the lowest rates of union organization of any age group. Understandably, many young people end up working under conditions of low pay, chronic underemployment and high rates of injury. What’s going on?

Jobs and Wages
If you take prices into account for items like gas, tuition, food and rent: we are better educated but earning less than young people did 30 years ago! And yet the big monopolies that control our economy have increased their profits to record levels. ($204.5 billion in operating profits in 2004, up 18.8% over 2003 levels).

Every dollar less for wages, benefits and safety is one more dollar in the pocket of the big business. Big businesses like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Loblaws and Telus, their friends at the Fraser Institute and their representatives in government are keenly aware of this economic law.

Big Business and Government are on the Offensive

Their objective is to reduce our wages, increase profits, get rid of the organized labour movement and everyone else that stands in the way of their low wage strategy. The offensive of big business must be stopped!


The trade union movement says organizing youth is a top priority, unfortunatly little action has backed it up so far. Unionization of young workers increased little since 1997 (11.7% to 13.9%). There have been some notable exceptions, but for the most part, organizing has been limited to sporadic uncoordinated “hot-shop” campaigns. What is really needed is a multi-union campaign to organize young workers on a mass scale.

What about openly and vocally building a cross-canada coalition of youth, students and young workers, both organized and unorganized, around a program for better work and better wages?

The program could be aggressive, simple, creative and strategic, action oriented and bold in demands. We need campaigns with overarching themes like organizinging young workers on a mass scale, establishing one $12/hr minimum wage and eliminating training and student wages. Raising the minimum wage is of concern to all workers because it raises the wage floor. Up the lowest wages, and everyone’s pay increases.

We can and must break the stranglehold of monopoly and its governments, turning Canada in a positive direction towards peace, social progress, full employment and better living standards for youth and all working people. It may sound ambitious but tinkering around the edges won’t stop the big business attack.

- Comments


  1. Thanks for this post Jason, you raise some real key issues.

  2. I think you are seriously ignoring some of the great work that has been done to help the workers at wal-mart. Why wasn't this mentioned in your post?

  3. Thanks for the comments everyone. I was alluding to Wal-mart when I mentioned there were "notable exceptions". The struggle waged by those workers is both important and heroic.

    Even in this case, the point stands that the task of organizing the largest retail giant in the world can't fall solely into UFCW's shoulders to take on alone. The whole labour movement needs to step up and develop a coordinated effort to help the workers at Wal-mart win better work and better wages.

  4. Don't you think that if companies raise the minimum wage that high they will be less willing/able to hirer more people and the situation would just hurt itself? I'm all for getting paid, but I'd rather have some money rather than no money.


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