Sadly, we are living in an age of great economic uncertainty. While corporations continue to record massive profits, inequality in wealth and income, between the very rich and working families, has grown to levels not seen in generations. Without question, inequality has become one of most critical moral and political issues of our time.
As we have seen over the past three decades or so, the neo-liberal economic model of modern global capitalism—with its large tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, secret trade deals, low wages, privatization and cuts to public services—has been devastating, not only for the economy, but also for our communities and way of life in Canada.
More and more families are struggling to make ends meet. Poverty is on the rise. In order to maintain high levels of profit for the very few, the jobs being created in our economy are often precarious, with low wages, part-time work and poor benefits. More and more students can not afford post-secondary education, and many working Canadians are no longer able to save for a decent retirement.
It has become abundantly clear that it is only the richest one per cent who are benefitting from any of these policies.
If we are to break out of this vicious cycle, and start to rebuild both our economy and our communities in Canada, unions will once again have to lead the way.
Unions matter today more than ever because they are good for the economy. Unions have historically fought for better wages and benefits, better working conditions and pensions for working people. When workers are unionized, they are guaranteed a living wage. They can afford to buy a home. They have disposable income to spend in their local communities, so that money circulates, instead of being held by only a small segment of the population, or being sent to multi-national corporations. Unions help protect middle-class jobs and work to try to get more people out of poverty and into the middle class.
Unions also matter because they are good for our communities. Unions help build stronger and more vibrant communities by advocating against poverty, homelessness, racism, violence against women and sexual discrimination. They campaign for affordable child care, a healthy environment, and services for seniors and people with disabilities.
And finally, unions are also good for democracy. Unions have always been at the forefront in fighting for the values that we hold fundamental as Canadians—peace, tolerance, human rights, universal health care and education. When workers are involved in the union movement, they don't just vote every four or five years; they get involved in helping shape and define our nation. In an age when so many people are feeling powerless, and big business controls and monopolizes the media, unions give working people a voice. Look around the world and you will find that unions are an essential part of any healthy and functioning democracy.
So brothers and sisters, be proud, stay strong and get involved! Never, ever, let the powers that be tell you how your country should be run. Go out and build the type of country YOU want to live in!