Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book: Unions in Court

This summer I tried to actually take my vacation and not just keep working. For the most part, I was successful. I did, however, take time to read Unions in court: Organized labour and the Charter ofRights and Freedoms (2017, UBC Press) by Larry Savage and Charles Smith.

Great read! The book traces the labour movement’s come hither-go away relationship with Charter litigation over the past 30 years. This historical analysis of unions' relationships with the courts provides a nicely nuanced explanation for why unions have, over time, come to embrace Charter litigation. In short
…[W]e have argued that while unions were initially hostile to constitutionalized labour rights for fear of how they might be interpreted by an unsympathetic judiciary, significant sections of organized labour ultimately retreated back to the legal arena, shed their judicial phobia, and wrapped themselves in the rhetoric of “worker rights and human rights” as a response to the growing tide of neoliberalism and the crisis in social democratic electorialism in the 1990s. (pp. 208-209).
The authors then go on to examine the pros and cons of this dynamic, continuing the long-running debate (often between Savage and Professor Roy Adams) around the ultimate utility of framing “worker rights and human rights”. The book also does a nice job of outlining the key wins and losses experienced by the labour movement.

Students in IDRL 309/LGST 310 might want to pick this book up!

-- Bob Barnetson

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