In a perfect world …

The South Cariboo Labour Council is shut down.

The South Cariboo Labour Council is shut down.

B.C. teachers are on the prod. Yesterday was Labour Day.

It seems an appropriate time to look at unions, a.k.a. special interest groups.

Dictionaries say a union (noun) is “an organization, club, or group that shares an interest or aim (e.g. protecting the rights of a particular group).”

According to that definition, many of us belong to some kind of union.  We join and pay membership dues to groups that work to protect or promote our personal interests. Some groups are socially and politically correct. Some are not. The politically correct groups are rarely called unions.

They are associations, societies, organizations, councils, federations, agencies, whatever.  Business groups such as the Forest Products Association, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, etc. certainly fit the union definition.

On the governance side, we have political parties (some more correct than others). The Union of B.C. Municipalities even uses the capital U.  And what about chambers of commerce? Old Age Pensioners? About the only people who don’t have any kind of union are the poor folks and the very young.

Labour or trade unions represent a wide variety and huge number of workers and professions. Most have decent incomes so they pay taxes and have money left over to buy stuff. Many volunteer their time to community organizations. They generally are good citizens. But.

One difference between them and most other groups is that in a unionized “shop,” membership is compulsory. However, no one is forced to work for a unionized corporation. Then too, labour unions sometimes take drastic steps, like job action or strikes, to protect their interests.

This does not endear them to others. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need groups to protect or promote ourselves. We’d look out for each other.

In our imperfect world, it’s “united we stand, divided we fall” for most interest groups.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.