Employment Immigration Race and ethnicity

August 2014 LFS: An alternative view. More on the R word and unions, illustrated

Chart 1 Unemployment by visible minority status and place of birth

Source: Census of Population, 2006 [Canada] Public Use Microdata File, Individual File: Canada. 2.7% sample, Statistics Canada

We’ll get to the chart in a sec. The August 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release this morning reported a 97,800 actual (payroll) job loss, and a corresponding 86,900 (obviously questionable) self-employment jump. We can’t think of anything more to add, so self-employment blah, blah, blah, blah.

Union ‘research’ underscores diversity problem

A couple days ago, we followed up on an interesting critique of the labour movement’s glaring diversity deficit. Apparently the critique may have been written in response to an episode that saw mostly white union supporters (mis)appropriating a comment by Martin Luther King, Jr. against ‘right to work’ laws.

That MLK comment was made at a time when the US labour movement held great promise for and common cause with the civil rights movement; it was the same year Cesar Chavez set off to organize California’s (and eventually the nation’s) poor, mostly minority farm labourers.

MLK likely didn’t envision half a century on that a wholly unqualified ‘research associate’ (RA) with a predominantly white, supposedly progressive, pro-union think tank condescendingly dismissing a black woman’s concern over Canadian Labour’s apparent lack of diversity as “overly simplistic and lacking nuance”…

… then proceeding to immediately validate her concern by blurting out “immigrants have higher union density rates than white Cdns”. Because clearly, as the recycled chart illustrates, all Canadian immigrants participating in the labour force are non-white – give or take 43%.

RA then went on to cite a 2000 research draft, to presumably enlighten his misguided critic — a paper he clearly didn’t read himself.

Nor is it likely he made it past the first sentence of the critique he found “overly simplistic and lacking nuance”. The short piece contains no less than 17 references to “(visible / racial) minorities”. Its references to immigrants are likewise to minority immigrants… however, seeing as RA is oblivious to the existence of non-minority immigrants, that ‘nuance’ was lost on him.

It’s also worth noting the critique RA callously dismissed actually references (with a corresponding link) the final (2004) version of the draft paper he’d shared – it’s even highlighted in a text box.  So effectively, he didn’t read that paper twice over. Otherwise he’d have realised the research he’d cited was also critical of labour’s lack of diversity.

It’s all a bit much, even for a hack playing twitter-conomist. But this is someone entrusted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to help its readers get Behind the Numbers. To be blunt, any org that puts such an individual, even on a volunteer basis, in such a position has credibility issues. We’ll just leave it at that.

Aside: It’s worth mentioning the referenced paper(s) use data on race/ethnicity from a voluntary, relatively small sample survey (SLID); the authors make clear their results are far from reliable and suggest unions consider collecting their own data. As noted, they don’t.

So as not to just criticise, a couple of points:

As touched on previously, Europe has a much longer history with organised labour, and large European employers such as Volkswagen prefer the administrative convenience of ‘works councils’.

Canada’s white, mostly European immigrants have a significantly higher rate of union coverage than the Canadian-born, balancing out the significantly lower union coverage rate among racial minority, mostly Asian and African immigrants.

The balance of immigration has significantly tipped to non-European source countries over the last 30 years. Meaning most of the white, European immigrants who are still active in the labour force will tend to be older, age 55-65, if not 65+.

The preceding post notes older Canadian workers are doing far better both in terms of employment and union coverage, even in decimated industries like Manufacturing. It’s pretty easy to put two and two together from there.

A labour movement that doesn’t represent the young, racial minorities and recent immigrants is one without a future. It’ll take more to turn its fortunes around than throwing up pictures of young, racial minorities or making empty promises to young workers.  Unfortunately, as our ‘progressive’ RA helped illustrate, the movement’s prospects are pretty dim.

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