Building a Better World: An Introduction to Trade Unionism in Canada
David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.
Errol Black and Jim Silver have produced a first-rate account of
Canadian trade unionism, which includes a short history, union
activities in the workplace, social activism, and political analysis.
The prime audience that the authors seem to address is that of students
in a political science class who are to be given instruction less on
what unions are than on what they ought to be. So the heart of unionism
is seen not as the aspirations of the working class, but as how well
unions measure up to an externally applied yardstick. A relatively small
part of the book is devoted to what union members and leaders actually
do in their union, what they aspire to, how successful they are, how
they initiate social change or respond to it, and what they expect for
The authors’ approach leads to some misconceptions, such as the idea
that the most important issue in free-trade agreements is whether to
modify or to abolish them, “nix it or fix it.” But such questions,
which used to split the Old Left, are irrelevant to most of the
campaigns that actually take place over free trade, such as the
Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the trade-related Biosafety
Protocol, and the false authority of free-trade tribunals.