BC Fed President: We’re Not Just For Folks With a Union Card, But For All Working People

November 2, 2009

In a firey speech to delegates about the importance of unity and solidarity BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair thanked MoveUP members and reminded them there is work yet to do.

Sinclair talked about the power of solidarity and collective action. He said the labour movement is influential because when unions speak with one voice they change the direction of society. “It’s what they hate about us,” he chuckled, “but it’s what I love about us.”

Sinclair pointed out that the Canadian healthcare system is a working example of solidarity. Canadians value their healthcare system, not only because it ensures care for individuals, but because it ensures care for all. He went on to say that as long as there is a labour movement in Canada there will always be healthcare.

Wading into more controversial waters, Sinclair next took on tax cuts. Paying taxes, he noted, has become synonymous with giving the government something to waste. Debate and scrutiny about government expenditure is always important, but fewer taxes mean fewer services forcing working people to pay more out of pocket, or going without vital services altogether. He then turned to the HST, unequivocally calling it dangerous. The HST doesn’t pay for healthcare or education, it’s a tax break for corporations. Sinclair told the assembled that the labour movement is in favour of fair taxes, not regressive taxes which punish working people. Sinclair argued that fair taxes and fair wages make sense for businesses too. Working people spend their money locally and tend not to send it to bank accounts offshore.

Sinclair spoke about an issue the BC Fed has been working on for some time: the minimum wage. Even though it has been eight years since the minimum wage was last raised, Sinclair noted it is still difficult for the labour movement to make a connection with young people. This is a long-standing challenge which labour must still struggle to overcome, making the case that higher wages and higher standards benefits all workers. “Our labour movement isn’t just about people with a union card in their pockets,” Sinclair said, “it’s about all working people.”