Many years ago when I was freelancing around the National Film Board, a little film ran through my hands that dealt with the movement in the United States devoted to destroying the union movement. The footage for this film had been shot by a young leftist couple, earnest but seemingly incompetent, who had produced some incomprehensible mishmash that I was asked to try to make some sense of. The conclusion of myself and my editor was that the young couple should get a day job, forget films. Famous last words: since then, this man has become one of the most successful producers of privately sponsored films and film series in Canada!
However, all this came back to mind with an interesting article by Paul Krugman in the New York Times on March 25 about something called ALEC --- the American Legislative Exchange Council --- which, he said provides template legislation to state and other legislators across the country of a right-wing nature. Specifically, Krugman says ALEC provided the template for Florida’s ridiculous Stand Your Ground law, under which anyone can shoot anyone else who he or she thinks might be threatening him or her, the law under which this black youth Trayvon Martin was recently murdered.
Similarly, Krugman says, ALEC has provided more than 50 bills that have passed into law in the State of Virginia, wholly written, in essence, by this corporate-funded and controlled agency dedicated to preserving and enhancing the private, anti-government bias in American society.
ALEC, says Krugman, is funded by such corporations as EXXON and the Koch Brothers, but has managed to keep a low profile, and was only recently exposed by some good investigative work by the Centre for Media and Democracy. Let’s hope no one in Canada is trying to emulate this success, although, with the encouragement of the Harper government, it would surprise me if we are to remain aloof from this kind of thing.
Not too subtly put, ALEC seems to be interested in making sure that dissenters end up in jail, that the prospect of getting them into jail is made easier for the network of Correctional Officers, lawyers and right-wing legislators who are always at work, burrowing away among the cherished, constitutionally-protected rights of American citizens.
The film we finally got out at the NFB is called Who Needs Unions? It is based on one particular lawyer who takes assignments from companies around the nation and lectures them on how to ensure that their workers never flirt with unionization, and, if they are already unionized, instructs the bosses on how to get rid of the unions. We’ve seen the results of this sort of thing when companies have quit Canada to take up work in places like Indiana or Virginia that don’t allow their workers to unionize.
It is an awesome thing to realize that in these countries that we consider to be free for most activities, the Wealth Owners --- as I insist on calling the people who run everything --- are always at work specifically trying to undermine and abolish the freedoms we take for granted.
We need to be on watch for something like ALEC popping up in
Canada. Tom Flanagan and his boys from the right-wing Western think-tanks are surely preparing the ground for something like this. After all, we know that a global attack on unions and the working class is already underway, and we see the results of it with every strike that is forbidden or ordered back to work, and we see it in the huge propaganda offensive being waged in the newspapers and other media against the rights of workers. Instead of shrinking from workers and the unions that protect them, this is a time we should be rallying around them and their right to organize as a matter of freedom of association, one of the supposed cherished qualities of our way of life.