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Buzz Hargrove

The State of the Union Movement in Canada

Date Recorded: Mar 16th, 2006
Recorded At: Queen’s School of Policy Studies’ Industrial Relations Centre in Kingston, Ontario
Recorded By: Queen’s Industrial Relations Centre
Duration: 1:00  

Topic Background

In the past two decades, the international labour movement has faced sizeable obstacles. In Canada, these have largely been brought about by governments’ explicit abandonment of full-employment as their primary economic goal in the early 1980s. The 80s ushered in a new era of high interest rates, and proceeded with other major changes in policy direction including privatization, deregulation, refocusing of government programs, and globalisation.

Mr. Hargrove maintains that this new social and economic regime of neo-liberalism was motivated by the financial difficulties which companies and investors experienced in the 1970s; by their irritation at the blossoming power of public institutions, regulations, and unions, and by their common goal to restore the sovereignty of business, this time on a global scale. In his view, the three decades prior to this turn in economic policy, namely the 50s, 60s and 70s, were characterized by mass prosperity for working people, and subsequent rising expectations among these people, that their economic and social situations could and would get better year after year. He maintains that the overarching goal of neo-liberalism has been to reinforce the supremacy of private business over our economy, and to destroy the positive expectations of working people.

Workplace organization and labour movement strategies have begun to adapt creatively to these challenges, in particular to globalisation. In response to production processes that make it easy to exchange one work force for another, new transnational forms of labour organization have been chasing capitalism to increasingly distant corners of the globe. Trade Unions have become progressively more aware of the need to integrate the most vulnerable sections of the workforce, especially those marginalized by gender and ethnicity, and the Labour movement has assumed a leading role in new forms of community-based resistance to the marketization associated with capitalist globalisation.

Speaker Biography

Born in Bath, New Brunswisk in 1944, Basil “Buzz” Hargrove succeeded Bob White as president of the CAW in 1992. He also serves as a Vice-President on the executive committee of the Canadian Labour Congress.

In 1998, he co-authored the book Labour of Love: The Fight to Create a More Humane Canada with Wayne Skene. Also in 1998, Brock University honoured him with a Doctorate of Laws degree. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Windsor in 2003, and from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2004.

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