Hudak’s leadership vision won’t fix anything

This past Saturday, Tim Hudak retained his position as
leader of the Ontario Conservatives, with Delegates of the party voting strongly
against loosening the rules to more easily allow for leadership reviews. In the
process, the Conservatives sent Hudak a strong signal of support. After the
vote, Hudak pledged to stay the course, to continue advancing even the more
controversial of his positions, saying: “I will not blink, I will not falter, I
will not hesitate…”

Hudak likened Ontario’s economic situation to that of
Detroit, a city which has had such a stunning descent into bankruptcy that the
very hint of a comparison is enough to stoke fear. But Hudak insists the
economy can be fixed, and he has a plan to fix it.

We all know what this means and it isn’t good, nor
is it any kind of “fix”. Hudak has long been a vocal proponent of right-to-work
legislation. We’ve discussed this type of legislation before – how it is designed
to break unions, to disempower workers, to reduce wages and benefits for all
workers and is, if anything, a right-to-work-for-less. The economists, Gordon
Lafer and Sylvia Allegretto, add weight to this view.

They analyzed the impact of right-to-work laws after
they were passed in Oklahoma. Lafer and Allegretto concluded that, though the
Conservatives would have us believe otherwise, the result in Oklahoma was that
companies left the state. Industries that depended on consumer spending on the
local level experienced a decline in sales and hampered growth. Despite an exhaustive study, Lafer and
Allegretto could not identify any positive impact that the right-to-work
legislation had on employment rates. Lafer concisely summarizes the situation:
“It will not bring new jobs in, but it will result in less wages and benefits
for everybody, including non-union workers.” In other words, when workers don’t
earn enough money to purchase goods, the local economy isn’t stimulated and
slips into decline. It seems obvious, but that doesn’t seem to stop Hudak from
vilifying the unions and arguing for a plan that would do anything but fix the

But there’s another component to this type of
repressive legislation that’s worth discussing – right-to-work legislation
plays a role in a broader plan to demoralize workers.

Unions do more than protect a worker’s right to a
decent wage and to be free from discrimination. They also give workers the
chance to take pride in their work and to develop a sense of solidarity and
care for all those involved in the common cause of securing labour rights.

These things, on the most superficial level, are not good for the employer. Job security, a decent wage and pride in one’s work increase
payroll costs and curtail an employer’s ability to cut costs on such things as
worker safety. Better for the employer that workers are isolated – divorced
from a common cause, working in soulless indifference. And if that causes the
worker to hate his or her work, so what? With right-to-work legislation in
place and unions broken, it would be no problem to simply cast such a worker
aside and replace him or her with another whose options have been so limited by
a legislated power imbalance that they’ll work for the same wage (or an even
lower wage if possible).

This is to say that right-to-work legislation seeks
to harm workers in their very dignity. It treats each worker as little more
than a disposable cog in a gluttonous industrial wheel which would rather make
the argument that the removal of labour protections will create jobs and ignore
economic evidence to the contrary than to afford workers the very rights
they’ve fought so long and hard for.

Seeing as how the spectre of Hudak’s
leadership being reviewed was raised after the Conservatives lost 4 out of 5
August 1 provincial by-elections, voters seem aware that Hudak’s plans to “fix”
the provincial economy aren’t sound. Only time will tell if Hudak will reach a
similar awareness.

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