Happiness and our Working Lives

“Lieben und arbeiten” (to love and to work). This is
the answer Sigmund Freud is alleged to have given when asked what a person
should be able to do well[1]. To
do these two things well is, of course, important to a happy and fulfilled
life. While this might be true, I might be so bold as to posit that there are
countervailing requirements placed on love and work that must be met before
doing them well can bring fulfillment.

“Work” that does not pay a living wage or the
security of which is always uncertain will not be fulfilling. At a minimum, job
security and a decent living wage are crucial. It won’t be enough on a personal
level to do your job perfectly if the work doesn’t allow you to pay your bills
or if you might be fired at any moment. Doing work well in a job that allows a
worker to live in a dignified manner is the truly important aspect of the
latter part of Freud’s love/work equation. And as all union members know, it’s
this latter part that has been under increasing pressure lately.

From the anti-union scrutiny of Bill C-377 to the
repressive statutory requirements of the
Putting Students First Act
to the failure of Bill-168 amendments to limit
employer reprisals to the vociferous calls for right-to-work legislation from
certain corners of the government, organized labour has been assailed on all
sides. All of these developments would seek to undermine the countervailing
requirements placed on work if it is to lead to fulfillment.

But the bright spot amidst all of this darkness has
been the response of organized labour. Not only have unions pushed back against
these measures, they have shown restraint and respect for the process of labour
relations even in the face of opposition that would disregard those processes.
The high road belongs to organized labour and even if factions of the public
have not recognized that before now, when the forces that assail unions
inevitably turn their venom on non-union workers, people will recall the
strength and solidarity of organized labour in opposing these forces and will
take heart.

Organized labour has done a service to all workers
in the past year by reminding government and business interests that there will
be resistance to oppressive measures. People have been made aware that work may
indeed be a four-letter word, but union isn’t. In protecting labour rights
unions have done more than protect their workers’ rights, they’ve protected the
rights of workers to working conditions that safeguard the opportunity for
personal fulfillment – leaving time to work at love and to love their work.

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