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Sweater Weather

Mar 13, 2021

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This is part 2 of my discussion with Dr. Stephanie Ross, associate professor and director of the School of Labour Studies at McMaster University. She is author, co-author and co-editor of several works on Canadian labour and unions, including Building a Better World: An Introduction to the Labour Movement in Canada (Fernwood, 2015) and Labour Under Attack Anti-Unionism in Canada (Fernwood, 2018).

In this second part of the interview, we talk about life within unions in more detail, especially about the inequalities that unions sometimes reproduce while trying to protect workers’ interests. Seniority is an example of this, a principle that guides layoffs, pay, promotion, etc. Seniority is key to disrupting the bosses’ power to arbitrarily dismiss employees, but it also disproportionately impacts younger workers who are the least able to shoulder the costs of layoffs.

And as a couple of professors, we can’t help but talk about the crazily unequal workplace that is the contemporary university, where faculty unions have tolerated or accepted differential tiers of employment—the famous distinction between tenured faculty and sessional/adjunct faculty. It’s a corrosive situation that undermines worker solidarity.

This is episode 10 of Sweater Weather with Aaron Giovannone.

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