Federal Labour minister Lisa Raitt is introducing legislation today directed at striking CP Rail workers. This had been a standing threat since the strike began last week, and mirrors similar laws Raitt and the Conservatives passed to end strikes at Canada Post and Air Canada. Opposition MPs with the NDP have sharply critiqued this move, with rumoured plans to Filibuster the bill before it can pass. Peggy Nash, herself a former union negotiator explained that the last week’s threats “take the pressure off employers”, stating that, “this government does not allow for free collective bargaining to find a resolve if they are constantly threatening to intervene on the side of the employer”.

This bill is a blatant gift to CP’s corporate directors, but also to Canada’s corporate leadership in general. Demands for this legislation have come from the mining, agriculture and fertilizer industries among others. While the press has covered their complaints about shipping, there’s been no suggestion that they stand to benefit from such strike-breaking even if they didn’t ship a single ounce of goods by rail. Intervening in another major, national strike sends a very simple message to unions: “don’t“. That kind of message is worth millions to every one of Canada’s corporate leaders.

In simple terms, this kind of behavior empowers corporate boardrooms the same way a street gang backs up its members. While their power and prestige is based (in theory) on winning fights, there’s rarely a chance of them actually losing – if they do, their “boys” will jump in. Anybody who’s attended a bar or high school knows where this leads – thugs who walk around starting fights they’ll never have to finish.

Harper’s “majority” all-but-ensures this back-to-work bill will pass. The NDP and Teamsters can protest, but there is little legal recourse left. Until a workforce refuses to obey this state-sponsored strike-breaking, the trend is going to continue. This isn’t to say that CP workers should (or even can) attempt something like this, but sooner or later somebody’s going to have to.

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