Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Weaponizing sick leave at Athabasca University

Employers have an obligation to accommodate workers who are unwell or who have a temporary or permanent disability. This obligation is often operationalized in the form of short-term sick leave and modified job duties.

Unionized workplaces often have paid sick leave and contractual requirements to accommodate disabilities. Accessing these rights sometimes requires an employee provide a note from a physician or other health-care professional, stipulating the duration of an absence or the nature of an accommodation.

Employers have little legal right to look behind physician-mandated leave or accommodation. For example, they are not normally entitled to know the nature of the underlying medical condition. And they have limited ability to contest physician-determined medical requirements, such as by making an employee see a company-appointed doctor.

Athabasca University (AU) has recently proposed new and quite aggressive “company doctor” language in its collective agreement with the Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA). This language would give the employer to power to mandate non-therapeutic medical examinations by a physician appointed by the employer.

AU’s proposal reads:
16.5.9. a. The University may require that a Staff Member be examined by a physician appointed by the University.

i. in the case of prolonged or frequent absence because of illness or,

ii. where the University considers that a Staff Member is unable to satisfactorily perform the Staff Member’s duties due to disability or illness, or

iii. where there is an indication of misuse of illness leave.

b. Upon request of the Staff Member, a copy of the report of the examining physician shall be sent to the Staff Member’s physician.

c. Expenses incurred under this Clause shall be paid by the University.
Practically, what this means is that:
  1. HR could require sick AUFA members to report to a company doctor for a medical examination. 
  2. Failure to do so could result in discipline (for insubordination) and possibly a suspension of paid sick-leave benefits or the denial of accommodation. 
  3. If AU’s doctor disagrees with the staff member’s doctor’s recommendations, AU would then be in a position to deny the staff member the sick leave or accommodation their doctor deems necessary or force the worker into a third examination to "break the tie".
Being forced to submit to an examination by a company-paid doctor is a profound intrusion into a worker's privacy.

AUFA has been able to identify 1 instance in the past 15 years where the university formally brought up the possibility of mis-use of medical leave. There may be other cases, but none the employer ever brought forward.

What this means is that this proposal does not solve a real and pressing problem facing AU. The current process of staff members providing medical notes from their own physicians or other health-care providers is adequate.

This proposal does increase AU’s ability to harass AUFA members with medical conditions by subjecting them to non-therapeutic medical examinations conducted by a company doctor.

Bluntly, AU is attempting to weaponize the sick-leave and accommodation provisions of the AUFA collective agreement against workers when they are most vulnerable.

The likely (and typically intended) effect of introducing company doctors is to limit workers’ use of their sick leave. Workers subject to AU's proposed provisions are less likely to exercise their rights for fear of being targeted for a visit to the company doctor.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission characterizes examinations by company doctors as follows:
Requiring an employee to submit to an [Independent Medical Examination] by a doctor of the employer's choosing is intrusive. Arbitrators and courts are reluctant to require an examination by someone who is not chosen, or at least agreed to, by the employee.
While AU’s bargaining team has conceded this proposal is “not a hill [it] wants to die on” it has refused to withdraw the language.

This kind of aggressive (and needless) proposal is deeply disrespectful to staff members' integrity (we don't fake being sick or malinger) and privacy. 

And AU’s refusal to withdraw the proposal is contributing to a growing stalemate in negotiations during the parties’ first round of bargaining under strike-lockout.

One has to wonder what the employer’s strategy is here?

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, September 21, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Out of Work



This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Out of Work” by Gary U.S. Bonds. Written by Bruce Springsteen, this song revived Bonds’ career and the lyrics remain surprisingly (and disappointingly) relevant 36 years later.

8 A.M., I'm up and my feet beating on the sidewalk
Down at the unemployment agency, all I get's talk
I check the want ads but there just ain't nobody hiring
What's a man supposed to do when he's down and

Out of work
I need a job, I'm out of work
I'm unemployed, I'm out of work
I need a job, I'm out of work

I go to pick my girl up
Her name is Linda Brown
Her dad invites me in
He tells me to sit down
The small talk that we're making
Is going pretty smooth
But then he drops a bomb
"Son, what d'ya do?"

I'm out of work
I need a job, I'm out of work
I'm unemployed, I'm out of work
I need a job, I'm out of work
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Hey, Mr. President, I know you got your plans
You're doing all you can now to aid the little man
We got to do our best to whip that inflation down
Maybe you got a job for me just driving you around

(I'm out of work)
These tough times, they're enough
To make a man lose his mind
(I'm out of work)
Up there you got a job but down here below

I'm out of work
I need a job, I'm out of work
I'm unemployed, I'm out of work
I need a job, I'm out of work

Ooh, I'm out of work
I'm out of work
I'm out of work
I'm out of work
I'm out of work
I'm out of work
I'm out of work
I'm out of work

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Farm injury data supports mandatory safety rules and injury compensation

(This post previously appeared on the Parkland Institute blog.)

In 2016, workers’ compensation coverage for paid, non-family farm workers became mandatory in Alberta. This change was part of a sweeping and controversial reform of employment law in agriculture enacted by Bill 6 (Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act) in late 2015. Prior to 2016, workers’ compensation coverage was optional and only about half of agricultural employers enrolled their workers in it.

One effect of this long-standing exemption from workers’ compensation was that comprehensive statistics about occupational injury (which are most often derived from injury claims data) were unavailable for agriculture. We now have two and a half years of claims data available, and this data reveals some interesting things about occupational injury among paid farm workers in Alberta.

The data

The following analysis uses 2017 data (the last full year available) from the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) about the agriculture and forestry industry. (The data for 2018 shows similar patterns but is incomplete.) I have removed from this data set all claims made by workers in logging, timber management, and riding academies as these sub-industries are not agriculture as we commonly understand it. I have also removed two small agricultural sub-industries (agri-tourism and llama/alpaca producers) for which 2017 claims data was unavailable, likely due to small numbers. These industries have an estimated total of five employees, so the effect of their removal is insignificant.

Mandatory coverage makes occupational injuries more visible

Not surprisingly, making workers’ compensation mandatory has increased participation in workers’ compensation for paid farm workers. In 2017, 3,847 employers enrolled their employees in workers’ compensation. This is up from 1,756 employers at the end of 2015, when participation was still voluntary. As of 2017, approximately 11,141 employees had guaranteed wage-loss, medical-aid, and vocational-rehabilitation benefits if they were injured on the job. (Comparator data for 2015 was not available.)

Again, not surprisingly, there was an increase in injury claims by agricultural workers between 2015 and 2017. In 2017, there were 738 injury claims made by farm workers and accepted by the WCB. In 2015, the WCB accepted a total of 339 injury claims by farm workers.

The doubling in claims between 2015 and 2017 is broadly commensurate with the increase in employers who enrolled their employees in workers’ compensation. Prior to 2016, approximately half of farm workers’ occupational injuries would have either been claimed under private insurance or simply not claimed at all (with the costs of the injury absorbed by the health care system and/or workers themselves). Essentially, mandatory workers’ compensation has made the existing level of occupational injury in agriculture more visible.

Claims data still under-reports injury numbers

While mandatory workers’ compensation has made agricultural injuries more visible, it is important to be mindful that workers’ compensation claims represent a minority of all occupational injuries. Research in Alberta has confirmed significant under-claiming of compensable injuries, a trend found across Canada and in other countries.

Workers’ compensation claims are supposed to be filed for injuries that require treatment by a doctor, modified work duties, or time off beyond the date of injury. Other, typically minor, injuries are not reportable.

Province-wide, workers only file claims for only about 30% of reportable injuries. Under-reporting reflects a combination of factors:
  • some workers are unaware of their rights,
  • some workers don't think their injuries warrant reporting, and
  • some workers are pressured by their employer not to report, while other workers fear retaliation for doing so.
Additionally, some injuries—such as occupational illnesses—also have long latency periods, and workers may be unaware that their illness was caused by a long-ago occupational exposure.

Of the 738 accepted agricultural injury claims in 2017, 409 were disabling injury claims (meaning the worker was injured seriously enough to require time off work or modified duties). The remaining 329 claims would entail only medical-treatment costs.

Accounting for unreported disabling injuries in agriculture suggests the true number of injuries is likely to be in the range of 1,200 disabling injuries per year. That is to say, roughly 1 in 9 farm workers is likely going to experience a serious occupational injury each year.

Extrapolating from this number suggests the total number of agricultural workers who experienced a major or minor injury in 2017 is likely to be about 3,750—or about 1 in 3 farm workers. We should be cautious using this number because it is an extrapolation, but it sounds about right. That 1 in 3 farm workers experiences an injury is higher than the Alberta average (which is about 1 in 5), and likely reflects the greater risk of injury in agriculture than in other industries.

The most serious injuries are lost-time injuries (where the worker required time off from work). In 2017, there were 321 accepted lost-time claims in agriculture for a total of 11,821 days of missed work (an average of 36.8 days per injury). The agricultural sub-sectors where the most disabling injuries occurred are those that typically involve working with large animals (e.g., feedlots, beef and hog production, stock yards, and dairy farms).

Implications of mandatory workers’ compensation in agriculture

The decision by the Alberta government to make workers’ compensation coverage mandatory for paid, non-family farm workers has had three significant implications.

First, the high level of injury among Alberta farm workers is now more visible because the main source of administrative data about occupational injuries (i.e., workers’ compensation claims) is more comprehensive. This data broadly mirrors what we see in other provinces in terms of the risk of injury for farm workers (i.e., higher than in most other industries) and the main sources of agricultural injuries (e.g., contact with animals and equipment).

Establishing clear evidence about the dangerous nature of agricultural work in Alberta will be important if the United Conservative Party wins the 2019 election and Jason Kenney follows through with his promise to repeal the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. Such evidence can then be used to bolster a constitutional challenge(using Sections 7 and 15 of the Charter) to excluding farm workers from the ambit of workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety (OHS).

Second, workers are now more likely to get adequate compensation for occupational injuries than they were prior to 2016. While the WCB is not a perfect organization, the benefits it provides to workers are superior to the laissez-faire arrangements that existed under the previous Progressive Conservative government. For example, a 2015 report commissioned by the former PC government revealed private insurance was both unevenly provided and often inadequate in terms of the benefits it provided to injured workers.

Requiring employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance ensures that the cost of injury is being borne by those who are responsible for the injuries, instead of externalizing the cost onto taxpayers and/or workers. At the same time, mandatory workers’ compensation frees employers from additional liability associated with occupational injuries.

That said, under-reporting of injury remains an issue. Additional efforts to make farm workers aware of their rights and the long-term importance of filing claims will be necessary to address under-reporting. It will also likely prove necessary for the WCB to meaningfully address claims suppression by employers.

Third, the high rate of injury for farm workers suggests that requiring employers to abide by Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Code (effective December 1, 2018) is a reasonable and necessary requirement. While the application of the OHS Code has been contentious (and in some ways it is under-inclusive), the decision to apply the code represents a significant improvement in protections for farm workers.

The effectiveness of the OHS Code at reducing the number of agricultural injuries will turn upon the vigor of government enforcement. Recent research suggests that only half of Alberta employers are compliant with the most basic OHS requirements. This reflects that employers presently face little risk of being caught breaking the rules and, if they are, little risk of meaningful sanction. Additional enforcement resources will be required.

In additional to meaningful enforcement, it will be necessary for the government to educate farm workers about their safety rights and how to use them. While industry safety associations tend to do a good job in helping employers to understand their OHS obligations, these associations tend to ignore the needs of workers. This educational work will fall to the government and/or community groups.

Overall, despite the near-hysterical reaction to Bill 6, the implementation of mandatory workers’ compensation coverage has yielded significant improvements in injury surveillance and compensation. WCB data also provides evidence that supports the subsequent implementation of occupational health and safety rules. Notable by its absence is any evidence that extending basic workplace rights to farm workers drove even a single producer out of business.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, September 14, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Unions in SF redux

A few years ago, a colleague and I published an article about the absence of unions in science fiction. A few weeks back, this topic came up at World Con 76 (the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society) when a friend moderated a panel discussion of authors, including a couple whose books we’d looked at in the article.







Based upon Olav’s tweets, the session was a success, with standing room only and some participants expressing a desire for more sessions with this kind of meaty approach. For me, the tweets provided a nice list of new things to read.


-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Indigenous labour history in Alberta

Over the past few years, the Alberta Labour History Institute has been collecting the stories of Indigenous workers in Alberta. A number of video interviews are now available online.

The most recent edited set of interviews looks at the role of Metis iron workers in building the CN Tower in Edmonton.



There is also a full transcript of the various interviews available that contains a fair bit more detail.

There are also numerous other interviews available.



At random, I listened to Linda Robinson’s very interesting interview about her experiences on the job as a person with a disability and her experiences with the labour movement.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, September 7, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Rain on the Scarecrow


This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Cougar. I recently watched a really off-putting documentary on John Mellencamp on Netflix (Plain Spoken) and this was one of the songs that played in the background.

It is written from the perspective of a farmer about to lose the family farm due to mounting debt and the cost-price squeeze. Overall, a pretty haunting song about farming as we head into the harvest season.

Scarecrow on a wooden cross blackbird in the barn
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
I grew up like my daddy did my grandpa cleared this land
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand

Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
This land fed a nation this land made me proud
And son I'm just sorry there’s no legacy for you now
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow

The crops we grew last summer weren't enough to pay the loans
Couldn't buy the seed to plant this spring and the farmers bank foreclosed
Called my old friend schepman up to auction off the land
He said john its just my job and I hope you understand
Hey calling it your job ol hoss sure dont make it right
But if you want me to Ill say a prayer for your soul tonight

And grandmas on the front porch swing with a
Bible in her hand Sometimes I hear her singing take me to the promised land
When you take away a mans dignity he cant work his fields and cows
There'll be blood on the scarecrow blood on the plow
Blood on the scarecrow blood on the plow

Well there's ninety-seven crosses planted in the courthouse yard
Ninety-seven families who lost ninety-seven farms
I think about my grandpa and my neighbors and my name and some nights
I feel like dying like that scarecrow in the rain

Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
This land fed a nation this land made me so proud
And son I'm just sorry they're just memories for you now
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Research: Why do workers take safety risks?

One of the more vexing aspects of workplace injury is when workers appear to disregard safety hazards and protocols and expose themselves to occupational hazards. Employer apologists often weaponize such events by blaming the victim of injuries.

I recently ran across an article entitled “Why Do Workers Take Safety Risks?—A Conceptual Model for the Motivation Underpinning Perverse Agency” that proposes a model by which we might understand worker decision making when faced with dangerous routine and novel tasks. The full text of the article appears to be available online if you want to read it.

The crux of the article is:
This Risk, Agency, and Safety & Health (RASH) model proposes that people willingly expose themselves to chronic injuries via a series of risk-taking processes.

This causal chain starts with personal motivation and over-alignment with organisational purpose (including impression management).

Ideally, that motivation would be moderated by an ability to predict future harm consequences from the task at hand, but that mechanism is weak because it is difficult to predict cause and effect, the consequences are too far in the future, and the opportunities for vicarious learning are few.

The motivation then causes misdirected creativity, hence the development of personally novel ways of solving the problem, albeit with greater risk of harm. Perverse agency then sustains actions that exposure the person to harm.
The paper does focus a lot on workers’ decision making and the underlying motives. But there is acknowledgement that worker decisions do not occur in a vacuum. Instead, workers’ approaches to tasks and safety may be negatively influenced by “over-alignment with organizational purpose” and the reward and cultural structure of the workplace (which are management creations).

Further, the nature of many occupational injuries may retard workers’ ability to grasp the consequences of the behaviour and adjust accordingly. Overall, a thought-provoking analysis of decision-making around safety.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, August 31, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Minimum Wage Strike



This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Minimum Wage Strike” by David Rovics. The song moots what would happen if minimum-wage workers decided to withhold their labour en masse and, in doing so, highlights how prevalent low-wage work has become.

In 2015, about 300,000 of Alberta's 1.8 million non-managerial workers earn $15 an hour or less. That same year, in some US cities (such as Los Angles), half of workers earn less than $15 per hour. Over time, there has been growing momentum to bring the minimum wage up towards a living wage.



Alberta will hit the $15 target this fall. So far, the job losses catastrophized by conservative politicians and business groups have not materialized. This gives credence to supporters’ assertion that higher minimum wages stimulate the economy because they are almost immediately spent on necessities by low-wage workers.

When I awoke one mornin', there was a feelin' in the air
Everything was quiet, things were different everywhere
The Wobblies were back again with Joe Hill at the mic
When all the minimum wage workers went on strike

There was no one pumpin' gasoline, no one drivin' from town to town 
No one at the registers, all the highways were shut down
The cars were stuck in the garage, CEOs on bikes
When all the minimum wage workers went on strike

There was no one flippin' burgers, all the grills were cold
Onion rings were in their bags, fries were growin' mold
There were no baristas at Starbucks askin', "How many shots would you like?"
When all the minimum wage workers went on strike

The fruit was fallin' off the trees, no one to load the truck
Corn was rotting on the stalks, no farmhands to shuck
The Workfare workers were hangin' at home, spendin' the day with their tykes
When all the minimum wage workers went on strike

Yuppie parents were housebound, their nannies left the job
Wal-Mart workers said, "Enough of our labor has been robbed"
The Foot Locker was locked up, the boss had to take a hike
When all the minimum wage workers went on strike

When I awoke one mornin', there was a feelin' in the air
Everything was quiet, things were different everywhere
The Wobblies were back again with T-Bone at the mic
When all the minimum wage workers went on strike,
When all the minimum wage workers went on strike

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Free joint health and safety committee e-course

Alberta's new OHS legislation has (finally) made joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) mandatory for employers with more than 20 employers. The legislation requires employers must allow 16 hours (or two shifts) of work time for JHSC members to be trained.

The legislation empowers the Minister to establish training criteria. At present, these criteria and approved providers are under development

Private training providers are, however, already offering courses, such as this one (for $499) from the Occupational Safety Group Inc or this one for $199 from Online Learning Enterprises Inc.

Earlier this summer, Alberta partnered with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety to offer a free (to Alberta residents) two-hour e-course on how joint health and safety committees are supposed to operate.
You can sign up for the course here and, if you can score 80% (in three tries) on the exam, you get a spiffy certificate like this one on the right.

My understanding is that completing this course will be considered a part of the required training for JHSC members. I found the course to be a decent introduction to JHSCs and their duties.

I wouldn't say it was hard (I quickly clicked through the slides and did the quiz while in a phone meeting and got 87% on my first try). But it is a decent start for new JHSC members.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, August 24, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Peacock Skeleton with Crooked Feathers



This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Peacock Skeleton with Crooked Feathers” by Blood Brothers. It is a bit hard to know what this song is specifically about (it came out in the aftermath of the 2004 US election) beyond the general hypocrisy of the elites.

The most obviously labour-related lyric is this one:
If you strike for better wages at the cola factory
and they drink champagne as they kick in your teeth?
Hey Peacock?
What's that?
I just wanna know what his blood tasted like.
Was it like sugar or vinegar or whiskey or dirt? (It's all those!)
Which peacock is beast? Which peacock is priest?
But there are other examples violence by the powerful (e.g., rising rents, police repression of dissent) and the impact this has regular people. Can’t say I really liked the song (a melody would be nice...) but it is an interesting example of post-hardcore music. Apologies for the lack of a video.

If the sea shakes like an empty maraca
I know I know I know I know
and she falls in love with the sounds of ships sinking?
I know I know I know I know

Which peacock is beast? Which peacock is priest?
If the heavens part and nobody, nowhere, nothing,
every apartment is vacant, every home for rent?
Hey Peacock?
What's that?
I just want to know what your feathers are made out of.
Is it bruises or roses or cradles or coffins? (It's all those!)
Which peacock is beast? Which peacock is priest?
If your friends are all cripple, all wither, all wilt,
I know (x4)
and you smile at their pain on your angel bone stilts.
I know (x4)
Which peacock is beast? Which peacock is priest?

If the brick you throw puts a bullet in your skull
and a police boot lands atop your gaping jaw?
Hey Peacock?
What's that?
I just wanna know what the babies mouth is full of.
Is it flies or cries or straw?
Which peacock is beast? Which peacock is priest?
Which peacock's police? Which peacock is thief?

If machine guns come knock, knock, knocking
Who's cashing out your bad luck?
If wedding bells sound like death knells baby
is a wealthy groom worth all this gloom?
If tuxedos slither off corpses
and copulate wild on wedding cake
and the priest starts snapping photos?
There's a peacock on your shoulder
pole dancing around your neck
while reciting the Book of Revelation.

So who do you love?
Who do you trust when your friends take a match to your front lawn?
A panicked face makes the peacock proud.
So who do you love? Who do you trust?
Who do you kill when your senator drags out your first born?
A panicked face makes the peacock proud.

If the forests turn to static and the gnarled branches, too?
I know (x4)
Your body starts to fall into a concrete tutu?
I know (x4)
which peacock is beast? which peacock is priest?

If you strike for better wages at the cola factory
and they drink champagne as they kick in your teeth?
Hey Peacock?
What's that?
I just wanna know what his blood tasted like.
Was it like sugar or vinegar or whiskey or dirt? (It's all those!)
Which peacock is beast? Which peacock is priest?

If machine guns come knock, knock, knocking
Who's cashing out your bad luck?
If wedding bells sound like death knells baby
is a wealthy groom worth all this gloom?
If tuxedos slither off corpses
and copulate wild on wedding cake
and the priest starts snapping photos?
There's a peacock on your shoulder
pole dancing around your neck
while reciting the Book of Revelation.

Things are never what they seem, the peacocks static melodies.

So who do you love?
Who do you trust when your friends take a match to your front lawn?
A panicked face makes the peacock proud.
So who do you love? Who do you trust?
Who do you kill when your senator drags out your first born?
A panicked face makes the peacock proud.

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Research: The sociology of near misses

Photo: Tomas Castelazo
A near miss is an event that almost happened, such as a worker narrowly avoiding an injury. Documenting near misses (especially the mundane, every-day kind of near miss) is tricky because they don’t tend to incidentally give rise to administrative records (e.g., hospital admissions, workers’ compensation claims) that are used to track actual incidents.

Garry Gray (who has written some really good articles in the past), has just published “The Sociology of Near Misses: A Methodological Framework for Studying Events That ‘Almost happened’.” This article uses two near-miss data sets to examine how different methodologies capture different types of near-miss data. (The article is available in its entirely for free at the link above).

The value of studying near misses is that they suggest an underlying hazard. But, because the near misses are so common, we often just ignore them and thus the underlying hazard goes unremediated. Near misses can also be more subjective in terms of identifying them and workers may withhold information about them for fear of discipline.

Comparing the kinds of near misses recorded during an ethnographic study and a survey of the same factory in Ontario, reveals some interesting differences in the kinds of near misses that were captured. Surveys (which rely upon memory recall) tends to identify dramatic incidents (e.g., nearly being struck by flying objects or moving vehicles) while the ethnography surfaced routine forms of near misses (e.g., nearly having a trip, slip, or fall) as well as dramatic incidents.

There was also an interesting gender-effect noted in the ethnography: near misses involving young females were more likely to result in remedial action on the hazards than were near misses affecting other workers. New workers were also more likely to experience near misses, which is consistent with injury data.

Overall, this article suggests that near-miss research has an important role to play in identifying the hazards in a workplace and the dynamics that lead to injury. It also provides some useful information about how different methodologies can shape the results of such research.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, August 17, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Death to my Hometown



This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture looks at “Death to my Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen. This Celtic-infused (and very angry) song was part of Springsteen’s 2012 album Wrecking Ball, which examined the impact of the 2008 recession on Americans.

The song's premise is that economic mis-management is a form of violence, with effects analogous to war. He particularly notes that the impersonal nature of the economic system means that it is hard to identify and punish those responsible for economic crimes:
Send the robber barons straight to hell
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now
Protest songs like this one do a nice job of capturing frustration and giving it voice. What this song lacks any sort of call to action (excepting the vague “be ready when they come” and "send them straight to hell") that would change the underlying political economy that allowed this economic violence to be perpetrated on the working class.

Well, no cannon ball did fly, no rifles cut us down
No bombs fell from the sky, no blood soaked the ground
No powder flash blinded the eye
No deathly thunder sounded
But just as sure as the hand of God
They brought death to my hometown
They brought death to my hometown

Now, no shells ripped the evening sky
No cities burning down
No army stormed the shores for which we’d die
No dictators were crowned
I awoke on a quiet night, I never heard a sound
The marauders raided in the dark
And brought death to my hometown
They brought death to my hometown

They destroyed our families, factories
And they took our homes
They left our bodies on the plains
The vultures picked our bones

So, listen up my sonny boy, be ready when they come
For they’ll be returning sure as the rising sun
Now get yourself a song to sing
And sing it ’til you’re done
Sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to hell
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now

They brought death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown
Death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New labour market training agreements announced

In late June, the federal government announced it had signed new labour market training agreements with Alberta worth $1.7 billion over the next six years. There are two main funding streams:

The Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDA) address Type 2 Employment Insurance (EI) training benefits. EI claimants as well as some EI premium payers can receive training under this program. It looks like Alberta gets about $154m per year to provide thee benefits to Albertans.

The Workforce Development Agreements (WDAs) replace the Canada Jobs Grant Fund (CJGF) as well as the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities and the Trageted Initiatives for Older Workers (both of which re now defunct and subsumed by the WDA). The WDA funds training that is not eligible to be covered under LMDA and Alberta gets about $91m per year under WDAs.

Interestingly, it appears that Alberta will continue to operate the Canada-Alberta Job Grant. This grant was the brain child of Jason Kenney when he was the federal employment minister. Kenney promised that the grant would see employers select unemployed people, offer then training and then hire them. Specifically, Kenney said
The whole point of the job grant is it will involve employers in selecting employees who they believe will have the propensity to work, getting them specific training, and the employers offer them a job at the end of it.
The mechanics of the CJG were that employers could spend up to $5000 for training and seek matching funds at a 1:2 ratio (i.e., up to $10,000) from the government to offset training costs. In effect, the CJG transferred the power to determine what kind of labour market training would by funded to employers.

Even a few years into the grant, it was apparent that things were going poorly. British Columbia reported that, after two years of operating the Canada-BC Job Grant, 99% of participants were drawn from the ranks of the already employed. This finding reveals that the CJG is not meeting its goal of increasing labour-market attachment among unemployed British Columbians.

Additionally, the majority of participants already had some PSE and most saw no wage-increase following the training. Less than 4% of employer applications identified participants as a youth, a person with a disability, Indigenous, or a new immigrant. Only 30% of participants were women. Finally, only a minority of employers used the CJG to pay for new or additional training. Most employers used CJG funding to offset existing training costs.

Alberta reported a very similar experience, noting that the Canada-Alberta Job Grant is being used to mostly train employed men with PSE in skilled management and non-management occupations. Manitoba concluded:
No evidence was found the Grant increased the supply of skilled labour, increased participation of underrepresented groups, or developed the long term human resource capacity of employers. Over the short term, training did not increase labour market attachment, as very few participants obtained or retained jobs as a direct result of the training. The vast majority of training participants were employed before receiving training (99%). (p.51)
The Northwest Territories was particularly critical of the impact of the CJG on existing labour-market training programs:
The cost sharing element of the Job Grant also negatively impacted funding for existing employment and training programs, particularly those targeted for unemployed, and under-employed individuals who do not have a job offer, and for individuals entering or re-entering the labour force. These impacts will increase as the Job Grant is fully phased in to reach 60% of the Job Fund. (pp. 65-66).
While there are exceptions to this general pattern (as well as data gaps in the evaluations), the CJG appeared to redirect federal training dollars towards already employed men in high-status and high-wage occupations. The CJG funding model also shifts federal funding away from assisting unemployed workers to become job-ready. In these ways, the CJG replicates existing patterns of advantage (and disadvantage).

In terms of access, control and benefit, the CJG privileged the interests of employers. Employers determined which employees received what kind of training under the CJG because employers made applications for the funding. Employers were the main beneficiaries of the CJG, receiving taxpayer-subsidized training for their employees.

Workers may benefit from this training, if it leads to more satisfying or remunerative work, either with their current employer or another employer in the future. The workers who received the most benefit from CJG were largely well-educated men who were already employed in skilled occupations and who didn't identify as Indigenous, immigrant, or disabled. Further, the CJG focuses training dollars on workers who are essentially job-ready, thereby disadvantaging Canadians with little prospect of labour-force attachment.

Basically, the Canada Job Grant was a terrible, terrible idea (which is what most practitioners said when Kenney proposed it). Why any province would retain a training program that yields such inequitable results is beyond me.

-- Bob Barnetson



Friday, August 10, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: In Dubious Battle


This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture looks at the novel “In Dubious Battle” by George Steinbeck (1936). This books looks at an agricultural workers strike and follows two communist organizers who orchestrate it. It precedes his better-known works such as Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and Cannery Row. James Franco recently released a film adaptation that was poorly received.

Jim Nolan is a new organizer, being shown the ropes by Mac McLeod. They become fruit pickers and jolly along a strike that is brewing because the owners have cut the fruit pickers wages. A more interesting aspect of the novel is watching Mac teach Jim how to mobilize workers through a combination of education and manipulation.

The owners respond in typical ways, using economic pressure, vigilantes, the police and the state (in the form of health regulations) to undermine the strike. The death of a worker at the hands of a vigilante galvanizes the flagging strike.

The owners then up the ante, by shooing Jim, burning buildings, and kidnapping allies of the strikers. Jim is eventually killed, sacrificing himself for his principles (or perhaps the party). Mac uses Jim’s death to further advance the interests of the workers.

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

CFIB stokes employer anger about Alberta WCB premiums

Like most employer lobby groups, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) has been resistant to changes to Alberta’s workers’ compensation system. Most recently, they have been trying to whip up anger about workers’ compensation board (WCB) surplus payments for employers.

To understand what is going on, you need a basic understanding of how workers compensation works and how it is funded. Apologies for the length of this explanation--it is complicated.

Employers pay premiums that fund the WCB. In return, they can’t be sued by the workers they maim and kill. Instead, the WCB provides stable, predictable, and immediate compensation to workers (most of the time, anyhow). Workers’ compensation isn’t perfect, but, in aggregate, it is better than the alternative for all parties.

Employer premiums are set based upon the projected cost of injuries each year in each industry or sector (called the industry rate and expressed as $x per $100 of payroll). Some employers can have their premiums raised or lowered based upon their specific claims costs (this is called experience rating).

When setting premiums, the WCB tries to collect enough money from an industry to cover the current and future costs of injuries incurred by that industry in that year. For example, if I get run down on a job site because there weren’t enough workers hired to act as spotters, there will be current-year costs (such as wage-loss and medical aid) plus likely future costs (such as permanent wage loss payments or future medical treatments as my discs degenerate from the injury).

Ensuring that the WCB has collected enough money from this year’s employers to cover this year’s injuries prevents the transfer of claims costs over time. That is to say, if the WCB did not collect enough to cover the future costs of my injury from the current group of employers, then future employers (who likely had nothing to do with my injury) would have to pay premiums to offset those costs (which isn't really fair to the future employers).

The money to pay for injuries is collected in an accident fund. Alberta’s accident fund is about $11 billion. This money is invested and the returns help off-set future claims costs (which will total about $17 billion, all in).

Alberta’s accident fund is considered fully funded when it is between 114% and 128% of projected injury costs. This “over funding” reflects that not every injury or illness that occur in this year will be claimed this year. This is particularly the case with occupational diseases, that often take years to manifest themselves and even longer to be accepted. So having a cushion helps ensure today’s employers pay for the cost of today’s injuries.

When the accident fund is over 128% due to greater than expected investment returns, the WCB’s past practice has been to give the surplus to employers on a pro-rated basis. This has happened in (I think) 9 of the last 13 years. Over the past five years, this has amounted to somewhere around $2 billion in surplus payments. In 2017, the fund was at 127%, so there are no surplus distributions in 2018.

It is important to note that previous surpluses have not been the result of premium overpayments by employers (but rather come from investment income). Indeed, over the last three years, employer premiums have not even covered the cost of injuries and have been supplemented by investment income. The CFIB typically forgets to mention its members are being undercharged for thir workers’ injuries.

The WCB could have chosen to do something else with accident fund surpluses (e.g., improved benefits, addressed long-standing contested claims, paid for better injury prevention efforts). But the WCB has long been captured by employer interests and focuses on keeping the cost of injuring workers as low as possible for employers. So its policy has been to pay out surplus distributions.

During the recent WCB review, the review panel recommended keeping surpluses inside the WCB system and using them for other purposes. Specifically, they said:
Recommendation 44:

Amend the Workers’ Compensation Act to make clear that money in the Accident Fund is in trust for the benefit of workers and employers to support a sustainable workers’ compensation system.

Seen in this context, the current practice of distributing a “surplus” to employers is not appropriate. Under the current practice there is no way to ensure that the distributed money will be used for workers’ compensation purposes. It flows to employers with “no strings attached”. In our Panel’s view, this practice should end, and a more appropriate policy should be designed to address instances where the Accident Fund exceeds the target range established in the WCB Funding Policy. We believe this policy should be established and in place to deal with any “surpluses” that are realized from the 2017 assessment year. (p.116).
The New Democratic government slightly amended section 91(2) of the Workers' Compensation Act to say:
91 (2) The general purpose of the Accident Fund is to support a sustainable workers’ compensation system for the benefit of workers and employers.
But they did not go so far as to prohibit surplus distributions.

The WCB is now proposing a slight amendment to its funding policy (consultation concludes August 13). The gist is that when the accident fund is larger than 128% of expected costs, the surplus get allocated in a couple of ways:
  1. The Board retains the discretion to allocate surpluses as its sees fit.
  2. If premiums were too high, then the premium overage goes back to employers (again, this historically hasn't been the cause of surpluses and premiums have been set too low).
  3. If investment income results in a surplus, the funds are allocated between employers and programs designed to reduce injuries.
Basically, the WCB is making allowance for the possibility that surplus investment returns could be allocated to making workplaces safer, rather than just lining employers’ pockets. Not surprisingly, the CFIB opposes any redirection of WCB surpluses to prevent injuries.

Instead, it says that employers should be trusted to use the rebate to improve safety. In light of recent research on injury rates and employer non-compliance with occupational health and safety laws in Alberta, trusting employers to protect workers is basically a laughable proposal.

Further, the CFIB wants the accident fund surplus distribution threshold set at 110% of projected costs. The result of this will almost certainly be the development of an unfunded liability in the accident fund.

It is a bit weird that a business group would be proposing a fiscally irresponsible policy change—at least until you think it about some more. An unfunded liability caused by the CFIB’s proposal will mean one or more of three things:
  1. Future employers will end up paying for the costs of injuries caused by present-day employers.
  2. Taxpayers will be forced to cover the unfunded liability.
  3. The WCB will be forced to reduce worker benefits.

The CFIB’s proposals make more sense once we see that the CFIB is seeking to externalize the cost of injury from its present members onto other parties (most likely future injured workers and taxpayers).

That is to say, this whole campaign is about reducing the cost of injury to employers by transferring it to workers—either through injuries, crappier injury compensation, and/or higher taxes. For this reason the government and WCB appear to quite rightly be ignoring the CFIB.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, August 3, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Damnation Ep 1-5

Rainy summer days are a nice time for TV. I have been working my way through the Netflix series Damnation.

The series is set in the rural America in the 1930s (but filmed by Calgary). It follows local preacher (of sorts) Seth who rallies local farmers facing price fixing by local business folks who are in league with the nasty banker.

The series opens with a producers strike, based on the Farmers’ Holiday Association strike of the 1930s. There was also a producers strike in Alberta in the late 1940s. This idea circulated in Alberta again during the debate about Bill 6.

The bad guys then bring in a strike breaker (Creeley) who kills strikers. While this seems a touch dramatic, it is based upon the strike breaking activity of private detective agencies like the Pinkertons (in the story, Creeley is a Pinkerton).

Episode 1 ends when Seth responds by nailing the dead man up to the bank door with the sign “which side are you on?” around his neck. (Which Side Are You On is a 1931 miners’ strike song from Harlan County—which is also (sort of) covered in the series).

Episode 2 features white supremacists and explores how the newspaper aligns itself with the interests of the local business people. Episodes 3-5 explores escalating conflict over farm foreclosures and an effort to split the farmers up to undermine their strike. A lot of people die in this series.



There are three strong female characters in story (a sociopathic strikebreaker, the preacher's radical wife, and a very cagey prostitute), which is nice to see given the tendency of unions of be viewed as “male” organizations and the limited roles of women in the 1930s. I’m hopeful we’ll see more of them in the second half of the series.

I’m pretty keen to finish this series and see how it plays out. There is some larger conspiracy by industrialists at work in the series that I’m keen to see revealed.

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Research: Migrant workers in BC construction

In February, the Labourer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA) released a report entitled “The impact of Canada’s migrant worker program on the construction labour force in British Columbia, 2015-2016”.

This report examines the construction industry’s use of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) as well as foreign nationals who entered Canada under the international mobility programs (IMPs) of various free trade agreements that Canada signed. (Sorry I can't seem to find a link to the report itself).

In 2014, the Harper Conservative government clamped down on TFW entries in response to public outrage about exploitation of the workers and employer abuse of the system. At the same time, they left the IMP stream alone (the government cannot unilaterally change bilateral free trade agreements) but noted that the IMPs were workers in high-skill occupations. The feds have done no research on whether these claims are true.

LUINA found that there were 1240 IMPs working in the BC construction industry in 2015 (roughly 2.6% of all IMPs in BC). That same year, there were 1260 TFWs employed in the construction industry (about 8.5% of TFWs in BC). The number of TFWs entering the construction industry is off sharply from the peak in 2008. These numbers do not include undocumented workers.

Over time, what appears to be happening is that employers are reducing their TFW hires and replacing them with IMPs hires (reflecting changes in program rules). LiUNA argues that the use of migrant workers is loosening the construction labour market (resulting in lower wages and fewer job opportunities for Canadians). It also suggests that government claims the IMPs cannot (or are unlikely to) work in the construction sector are inaccurate.

Something I was surprisingly unable to find in the report was the overall number of workers in construction occupations in BC. This information would help contextualize the potential impact of the ~2500 migrant workers on the labour market. Using StatsCan CANSIM Table 282-0153, it looks like the 2015 number was about 250,000. Assuming this number is comparable to the LiUNA data, that suggests migrant worker comprise 1% of workers in construction occupations.

While certainly 2500 additional workers may create some distortion in the labour market, I’m not sure this number is really all that significant. Not including this important context in the report feels a bit like LiUNA was spinning their conclusions to make more of them than they warrant.

LiUNA does (sort of) address the magnitude of the impact in their press release when they say:
Some people argue the number of migrant construction workers in BC is small compared to the construction labour force. But you do not need thousands of migrant workers to have a significant impact on specific building trades involved in major public and private sector construction projects as it supresses wages and displaces qualified Canadians.
So they clearly have turned their mind to the issue and the omission is likely intentional. Now, there is probably some truth to their statement and kudos to the LiUNA for doing this kind of policy research. But not providing the context of their findings undermines the credibility of the report and its recommendations.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, July 27, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Paid in Full


This week’s instalment of Labour & Pop Culture returns us to heady days of 1987, when hip-hop was beginning to penetrate mainstream American culture. “Paid in Full” by Eric B and Rakim explains the economics of crime. The song gave its name to a 2002 film about the drug trade in Harlem.

[Eric B]: Yo Rakim, what's up?
[Rakim]: Yo, I'm doing the knowledge, E., I'm trying to get paid in full
[E]: Well, check this out, since Nobry Walters is our agency, right?
[R]: True
[E]: Kara Lewis is our agent
[R]: Word up
[E]: Zakia/4th & Broadway is our record company
[R]: Indeed
[E]: Okay, so who we rollin with?
[R]: We rollin with Rush
[E]: Of Rushtown Management. Check this out, since we talking over
This def beat that I put together, I wanna hear some of them
Def rhymes, know what I'm sayin? And together, we can get
Paid in full...

[Rakim]
Thinkin of a master plan
'cause ain't nuthin but sweat inside my hand
So I dig into my pocket, all my money is spent
So I dig deeper but still comin up with lint
So I start my mission- leave my residence
Thinkin how could I get some dead presidents
I need money, I used to be a stick-up kid
So I think of all the devious things I did
I used to roll up, this is a hold up, ain't nuthin funny
Stop smiling, be still, don't nuthin move but the money
But now I learned to earn cos I'm righteous
I feel great! So maybe I might just
Search for a 9 to 5, if I strive
Then maybe I'll stay alive
So I walk up the street whistlin this
Feelin out of place cos, man, do I miss
A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape of
Me and Eric B, and a nice big plate of
Fish, which is my favorite dish
But without no money it's still a wish
Cos I don't like to dream about gettin paid
So I dig into the books of the rhymes that I made
To now test to see if I got pull
Hit the studio, cos I'm paid in full

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Research: Union safety effect

By Erik Henningsen 
A few weeks ago, a friend in the labour movement pointed me to this new article about the impact of unions on workplace injuries. “Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities” examines how legislative changes that impede unionization affects levels of injury and fatality in those workplaces.

The research on the union safety effect is mixed. Some of it supports the notion that unions results in lower levels of injury and fatalities. Some of it comes to the opposite conclusion.

There are lots of methodological challenges in doing these kinds of studies that help explain the mixed results. Comparing unionized and non-unionized workplaces, for example, sometimes suggests that unionized workplaces have higher levels of injury and fatalities. Critics of unions often use such data to conclude that there is no union safety effect. There are, of course, good potential explanations for these results.

For example, workers may be more likely to unionize in dangerous workplaces (spurred on by the danger) so there may be an apples-to-oranges issue with the comparison. The presence of a union may also embolden workers to report injuries, thereby creating the appearance of more injuries when, in fact, it is just a matter of more reported injuries.

This new study examines fatality levels in US states that have implemented so-called right to work laws. These laws weaken unions by allowing workers to opt out of paying union dues (thereby creating a free rider problem). The question is essentially, what effect do right-to-work laws have on workplace health.

The upshot is that a 1% decline in unionization (attributable to right-to-work laws) means about a 5% increase in occupational fatalities. Overall, RTW laws have resulted in a 14.2% increase in workplace mortality (this is bad). It also suggests that unionization reduces occupational fatalities (these being the most serious forms of injury and also the most likely injuries to be reported). The author discusses his study a bit more on his blog, which is an interesting read.

-- Bob Barnetson

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, July 20, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Darth Vader's Performance Assessment



It's summer and, honestly, I got nothing left this week so enjoy some Star Wars-related labour stuff. Especially the mission statement stuff.

-- Bob Barnetson

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Each according to their needs..."

One of the challenges that a bargaining team faces at the table is convincing the other side to accept a proposal. While it is always possible to threaten a work stoppage (i.e., a strike or a lockout) to force a proposal on the other side, it is more common to engage in log rolling (exchanging agreement on your X for agreement on their Y).

Sometimes, it is possible to simply convince the other side that a proposal is their own best interest. For example, employers might seek wage freezes by arguing that the organization cannot afford a cost-of-living increase. The implicit threat here is that a cost-of-living adjustment will come with job losses due to a lack of funds.

Athabasca University’s current negotiation with its faculty association is a good example of this. The employer has proposed a two-year agreement with no cost of living increases. This is consistent with the political direction set by the government and that other public-sector unions have accepted.

The difficulty that the union side is going to have with this proposal is two-fold: (1) taking a zero means salaries fall behind inflation (i.e., buying power is reduced) and (2) there is no good evidence that university is in serious financial distress.

The recent salary disclosure (this data is from 2017) suggests that there is lots of money for administrators. The ten-best paid administrators who are outside of the bargaining unit raked in a total of $3.3m in overall compensation.



The university’s financial statements also reveal that it has recorded surpluses every year since 2013 (excepting a tiny deficit in 2016). The university’s rhetoric that surpluses reflect “one-time savings that cannot be relied upon” sits awkwardly with this long-term trend. And recent enrolment data is showing a 15% spike in undergraduate registrations (more than half of AU's funding comes from registrations so this is a big cash-flow increase).

Once bargaining gets down to brass tacks in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how committed Athabasca University’s bargaining team is to getting two zeroes and the strategies it uses to achieve those.

Given the facts the university is stuck with, I’d say that persuasion is unlikely to be effective. This leaves log rolling, threats of a lockout, or abandoning its proposed wage freeze altogether.

-- Bob Barnetson

Friday, July 13, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: Private Dancer


This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Private Dancer” by Tina Turner. The song is sung from the perspective of a worker in the sex industry. We don’t normally think about sex workers as workers—although they are.

A new course under development at Athabasca is hoping to change that. LBST 4XX (Sex work and sex workers) will examine the sex industry and the experiences of those work in it. While sex work represents one of the most extreme forms of employment, it shares many features with other forms of employment. Specifically, it is a relationship of power wherein one party appropriate the surplus value generated by the other, often employing coercion and externalizing costs in gendered and racialized ways.

The course offers an overview of the sex industry in a variety of theoretical and material contexts, as well as an in-depth focus on prostitution in the Canadian context. Taking “the prostitute” as the stereotype that drives public sex work policy, this course examines the myriad images of and circumstances in which sex work occurs. In addition to reading key texts by scholarly experts on the sex industry, we will hear from sex workers themselves about their jobs, working conditions, and the power dynamics of sex work.

Students will learn to analyze sex work as work through a variety of theoretical lenses, and to identify similarities and differences in legal and policy positions that respond to feminism, queer theory, critiques of neoliberalism and globalization, postcolonial praxis, and progressive legalism. This includes examining how labour policies, such as occupational health and safety policies, affect sex workers, the roles of clients and third parties in the sex industry, and sex workers’ labour organizing.

I’m hopeful this course will open in late 2019.

Well, the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names
You don't think of them as human
You don't think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

I want to make a million dollars
I want to live out by the sea
Have a husband and some children
Yeah, I guess I want a family
All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names

I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
Just a private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

Deutschmarks or dollars
American Express will do nicely, thank you
Let me loosen up your collar
Tell me, do you want to see me do the shimmy again?

I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
Do what you want me to do
Just a private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names
You don't think of them as human
You don't think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
Just a private dancer, a dancer for money

-- Bob Barnetson