Lilley

Klein, union an odd mix: Far-left hero’s appearance at Unifor unveiling should raise ire, questions

By Brian Lilley

Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

Canada’s union leaders love to say they are all about protecting jobs, but last weekend leaders of Canada’s largest private sector union were promoting ideas that would end the very jobs their members hold.

Over the Labour Day weekend, the Canadian Auto Workers and Communication, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged into a new entity called Unifor. One of the keynote speakers was radical protester and hero of the far left, Naomi Klein.

Klein wants fewer cars on the road and less oil and gas extracted. Strange then that she was invited to speak at a convention for a union that represents tens of thousands of workers in those very industries.

Perhaps it was those radical views, which Klein never backed away from, that resulted in Klein getting very little applause as she spoke.

She called for more public transit and less cars, more oil to be left in the ground. She urged the new union to embrace the fight against climate change but she has also said climate change action is not compatible with economic growth.

Not compatible with economic growth? That means no raises for workers, no new factories or new jobs, just leave everything as is, or — if you listen carefully to Klein — she wants a smaller economy.

Here’s what Klein has previously argued regarding Canada’s export-based economy:

“Climate change lends urgency to our fights for social justice, like nothing else before. We have to win these battles against free trade, we have to win these battles to re-localize our economies.” Most of the cars and trucks built in Canada are exported. Our parts plants supply factories in the U.S. Klein doesn’t like the export economy, she wants small and local. That means unemployed and poorer.

Just last year, this hero to the leaders of the union representing auto workers called for fewer cars on the road.

“We should be developing policy that encourages the maximum number of people not to use cars.” Don’t use cars? That means don’t buy cars. That means fewer jobs in places like Windsor, Oakville and Oshawa where the Big Three have plants, unionized plants whose workers invited her to speak and push her agenda.

Klein doesn’t just target the auto industry, she hates the oil industry, which — I will point out again — Unifor is heavily involved in by representing thousands of oil-patch workers, workers on rigs, on pipelines and elsewhere. But she wants less drilling.

“But we also need a government that’s willing to say no. No, you can’t mine the Alberta tar sands and burn enough carbon that you will have game over for the climate as James Hansen has said,” Klein told PBS recently.

It’s shocking that Klein is still citing James Hansen who has been wrong in his predictions of doom so many times that any fair-minded person would see him as discredited. But he opposes Alberta oil, so he’s useful to Klein.

Why would union leaders who represent oil workers, auto workers, manufacturing workers, workers in the transportation sector invite a woman who wants to see those industries shut down or greatly diminished to speak at their founding convention?

Because her politics strangely match theirs perhaps? Because they all hate Stephen Harper?

The union delegates in the room were not impressed, as I said, giving light and scant applause for Klein.

They should be furious though.

In last week’s column I pointed to falling union membership and said it may have something to do with the radical politics espoused by the leadership.

This is exactly what I was talking about.

 


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