Canadians have been watching right-to-work developments in Wisconsin and Michigan for the last couple of years. In those states and at home such packages of legislation are dear to neoconservative hearts and unfortunately are proving effective at putting downward pressure on wages and undermining unions. Something like 200 laws restrictive to labour rights have been passed in Canada in nearly every province and by the federal government since the early 1980s. The resultant discouragement of unions has contributed to rising inequality and given Canada a large volume of complaints regarding restricted union rights at the International Labour Organization.
Such developments are the topic of a labour conference held this week in Toronto and a new research report from the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights. CFLR is an agency of the National Union of Public and General Employees which has 340,000 members. The report is strong on the details of why we need to reexamine legislation that has an unhealthy effect on our society. Inequality is a known negative social development and it has come to define this era for so many.
Less rights, lower wages and benefits result in anti-social situations. No, not exactly rocket science.
Unions Matter: How the Ability of Labour Unions to Reduce Income Inequality and Influence Public Policy has been affected by Regressive Labour Laws
21-page .pdf copy of report
image: V-2 rocket on trailer, IWM via Wikimedia Commons
Students usually form a portion of most communities when those communities reach a certain size and come to host insitutions of higher learning. Generally, this is all to the good. To be in any way a progressive and economically competitive society, education is advised. Part of that equation means keeping students, housed, fed, clothed and healthy while they study. We see friction developing out there on the perimeter where housing is concerned.
Last month in the Toronto Star there was a piece about a city raid in Scarborough on a rooming house near a University of Toronto satellite campus and a Centennial College campus. Inspectors entered a fairly ordinary-looking home designed for a single family and apparently found “…11 people …crammed together paying $500 to $700 per month each for spaces created by subdividing rooms at 1289 Military Trail.” (GTA section of the Star February 11, 2013)
This conversion is alleged to have been done without permits or inspections and without reasonable regard to the provision of fire exits, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or proper heating and ventilation. The owner of the property mentioned above, at the time of inspection, was potentially liable for fines of up to $70,000. They, and other owners of ad hoc student residences seem reluctant to talk to the media. Perhaps they may see themselves merely as housing entrepreneurs responding to increased enrollments at nearby schools. On a bad day, however, they could be seen as slum landlords, taking advantage of a group who may find themselves in a weak position because of their status as students.
Many communities have come to cherish the “eds and meds” portion of the post-industrial economy. It seems that suburban communities in particular value the presence of colleges and universities for the good paycheques and prestige associated with them. Schools in turn may find a variety of incentives for expanding in ex-urban areas including cheaper land, physical space and a student-age population ready to study. Housing in the communities near satellite schools simply may not have adapted quickly enough to student housing needs for a variety of reasons and the schools themsleves may not have invested in their own, on-campus housing infrastructure. The results seen in the article below model what is happening all over North America in proximity to places of higher learning. Is it really a great idea to leave housing our future taxpayers, voters, citizens, entrepreneurs, professionals and tradespersons to the random, frequently sloppy efforts of unknown landlords?
No, of course not. This phenomena must be seen as part of a pattern of suburban-poverty.