Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Modest Proposal: Why We Need Slave Labour (Or Already Have It)

This post is a proclamation of the Church of the Orange Sky and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Mad Reverends.

I'm not a resident of Toronto but I do live in Ontario for the time being, which hopefully is enough to qualify me to comment on the present chaos in Toronto, arising from the decision by Toronto transit union workers to pull their services this weekend after refusing to ratify the last contract offer from management and subsequently, they allege, facing threats from users of the service which they thought would put members in danger if they stayed on the job over the weekend. This wasn't illegal because they were already in a legal strike position, but it was possibly unethical, since initially they weren't going to go on strike without 48 hours notice, i.e. not until Monday.

I'm most intrigued by the fury that this strike has provoked among Torontonians. Here, for example, is some whining from Toronto Sun columnist Christina Blizzard that the workers are already going to be overpaid and are "touch of us" and intend to "hold the rest of us hostage." They don't deserve more money, Blizzard reasons, and therefore it's time for the government to pass a law requiring all the transit workers to go back to work by Monday or face criminal penalties. (In fact the government has already declared it intends to do just that this weekend.)

I wonder how Blizzard would feel if she were ordered by an act of Parliament to show up to work every day at imposed terms, even if they were generous. Surely she's conservative enough that she would oppose this extension of "big government" as some sort of socialist abuse of individual rights. Why is it not an abuse of individual rights when the government does it to others?

Blizzard is being particularly ridiculous, but these views aren't uncommon. In this Toronto Star article, for example, various people complain that their non-existent right to be informed 48 hours in advance of a strike has been violated. Such strikes are "a danger to society," and "selfish," and one man even thinks they "should be shot" (he's probably kidding... I hope?) because "some people have to work, you know."

The rage here is appalling, as is the proposed solution. People, for some reason, think they are entitled to the services - for middling pay, at menial rates - of scores of servants. Those servants withdraw their services, and the people, irate at this "violation" of their non-existent right to be served at times and places of their choosing, decide that they need to have laws passed to force their servants to keep serving them.

I have news for Blizzard, and others who think like her. Maybe the transit workers are "out of touch," but if you can't keep the transit system operating without paying them more, then their labour actually is worth more. That's how your fucking free market works! One of the people quoted in the Star article actually says that the servants need to be forced back to work because "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," which is a very convenient position to hold when you are among the many and are hoping to oppress "the few." I wonder if you'd feel differently if you were one of "the few" in question.

As a public service, the Church of the Orange Sky initiated emergency deliberations within its Modest Proposal Research Institute (MPRI), a Church-funded public research institute charged with innovative solutions to everyday problems. After careful consideration, the MPRI has offered a solution which, while it may not resolve the present crisis, will at least reduce problems in the future which arise when bus drivers, manual labourers, and mechanics - in other words, the economic elite which controls our society - get it into their heads that for some inane reason they deserve salary increases as high as 3% per year, when hard-working and downtrodden CEOs must comfort themselves with average annual increases of only 39%.

It is time that all decent God-fearing Canadians rose up in revolt against the hideous economic excesses demanded by these jumped-up chauffeurs!

The MPRI recognizes, as Blizzard and her ilk do not, that is in fact not just illegal but unconstitutional (which, unfortunately, is not usually enough to actually prevent our anti-rule of law government from taking action) to ignore workers' rights to collective bargaining and impose work terms on them. However, thus far the move in Canada to overturn basic democratic rights as well as re-convert the law into a tool of oppression rather than a tool of justice has limited itself to a zany, ad hoc approach which merely encourages one crisis after another. What are needed are long-term solutions.

According to the MPRI, the obvious solution to the problem of servants who have unwanted rights is to create a new class of servants who don't have rights. Ironically, our society used to have just such an underclass, but unfortunately, during the 18th and 19th centuries, Quakers and hippies and humanists basically destroyed it through their so-called "abolition of slavery" campaigns.

It's high time we brought back slavery. That way we would have a sizeable group of non-persons who we could safely order to man all the necessary public service positions, and who we could count on to diligently and obediently do their jobs without wandering into a Blizzardian "fantasy world" of decent wages and safe working conditions. Perhaps if Toronto had ten thousand black men named George, maybe they could avoid this pesky "workers' rights" business.

Of course, we can't have black slaves anymore - this would be racist and unacceptable, and besides it would disqualify Barack Obama for President, which would be a global tragedy. I don't know how we'll divvy up the slavery positions, but I'm willing to volunteer for the first, if Ms. Blizzard will go for the second.

The chief argument against union workers trying to protect themselves and advance their interests is usually that their non-unionized workers have to accept out-sourcing and pay restrictions all the time. Well, that's probably true - except for their non-unionized management, mind you, which tend not to have accept any inconveniences at all. More to the point, this is not an argument for getting rid of those unions which do protect their members. It's an argument for creating more unions, so that more workers can benefit from better pay and job security.

Why can't them working-class subhumans just accept their lot in life and diligently do the tasks that we have set for them at rates and wages which we think are fair for them? Don't they realize that it's their responsibility to make sure we live out our lives in comfort and prosperity?