This is part two 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 within themselves while protecting workers’ interests. Seniority is an example of this, a principle many unions have established to guide layoffs, pay, promotion, etc. Seniority is key in disrupting the bosses’ power to arbitrarily dismiss employees, but it also disproportionately impacts younger workers who are the least able to shoulder the cost of layoffs when they are downloaded onto them.
And as a couple of professors we can’t help but gab about the crazily unequal workplace that is the contemporary university, where faculty unions have tolerated or accepted differential tiers of employment—the distinction between tenured faculty and sessional/adjunct faculty. It’s a corrosive situation that undermines worker solidarity.