"The Wisconsin decision to strip the ability to bargain collectively from public-sector workers is an attack on their basic rights," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 140,000 workers. "More than that, it is an attack on all working families, on the middle class and an attack on democracy."
Representatives of unions affiliated to the Alberta Federation are meeting today in Edmonton and voted to send a donation of $5,000 to the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO to help in the fight for workers' rights.
"Alberta's union leaders realize that this issue is not limited to Wisconsin, or to other parts of the U.S. where Tea-Party Republican-controlled governments have launched attacks on unions," says McGowan. "Here, in Alberta, we have seen right-wing think tanks use flawed and biased research to attack the valuable work done by public-sector workers."
The Tea Party's biggest funders, the billionaire Koch brothers, have significant business links in Alberta. They are responsible for receiving and handling about 25 per cent of the oil sands crude sent to the U.S. and they own Calgary-based Flint Hills Resources Canada.
"Don't expect these guys to stay out of our politics. In fact, they may already be funding the Wildrose Alliance and Tory leadership candidates. We can't know for sure because both parties refuse to reveal their donors. Albertans should demand to know who is funding campaigns and candidates here," says McGowan.
"Today, the AFL executive council has a message for Tory and Wildrose politicians: If you try to implement similar anti-worker schemes here, you'll have a big fight on your hands," he says.
"Unions are particularly important here, because there must be a counter-balance to the power and influence that big business holds over politicians. The Alberta government's problem is not caused by negotiating deals with unions, whose members elected them. The real problem in Alberta is the long list of tax and royalty giveaways to wealthy corporations who fund political parties that serve their interests," says McGowan.
"This makes the role of unions even more vital. Alberta needs a strong voice to act a counter-balance to the power and influence that big business holds over politicians. Let's not forget that unions have been a major force in improving the quality of life for all Albertans by being the driving force behind the creation of a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle."
- 30 -
Gil McGowan, president, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)