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Undercover in a Toronto factory where a temp worker died (thestar.com)
182 points by Zarkonnen 14 days ago | hide | past | web | 135 comments | favorite



Having worked at two manufacturers in the Midwest, anecdotally the majority of forklift drivers, line workers on specific lines, and even many white collar office roles were filled by temp agencies. A similar structure existed for engineering too; we would have a problem and the engineering firm with workers under the same roof would develop a solution.

For the temp workers the motivation was always very clear and very much based on working around labor laws. If a forklift driver got in an accident, it wouldn't be counted in the same way. Line workers could be less rigidly brought on board or let go with seasonal or other varying demand. They were cheaper too and everyone worked hard to try and become a regular employee.

I am not sure what a solution is, after all these types of temp companies only exist to skirt existing labor laws, suggesting these laws may defy economics a bit too much. On the other hand what other ways do we have of increasing the bargaining position of labor? Growing the economy, but that isn't something a politician can honestly promise. Pulling back from globalization would, but that is bad economics and bad for national security. Perhaps something like earned income tax credit? Or perhaps we should just continue waiting until the rest of the world develops and the supply of labor finally becomes constrained.


The solution is simple. Criminal prosecution of the executives of the company, coupled with treating white collar crime the same way we treat street crime.

Like the great George Carlin once again, if you wanna stop illegal drugs just start executing the bankers laundering the drug money.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDO6HV6xTmI&feature=youtu.be...


Can't even begin to think about all of the negative side effects this would have...

Ending right to work laws and bringing back unions.


When the notion of a union was proposed to the management at Fierra, the owners spread the word that if the workers began forming one, everyone would be immediately fired and replaced.

source: My grandmother used to work at this very factory when we first moved to Canada. She worked for about 5-6 years, starting in the 90s.

When you are new to a country, don't speak the language or know the laws well, you don't have as much power as you think.


An industry based union would make them more difficult to replace, increasing the price of labor

I don't really get this line of thinking, it just seems like a denial of globalization, automation, and economics. Instead of helping the workers it more seeks to punish American capitalists--including all the people like me who hope to retire in the future with investments that grow. When the rest of the world is developed enough that a union could span the entire globe, then this would at least be logical again.

As an electrical engineer working for the company, two of my assigned jobs were 1) evaluating the cost effectiveness of replacing all the forklift drivers with robots and 2) installing new equipment to eliminate repetitive lifting roles on the packaging lines. I was actually surprised how much cheaper the human forklift drivers were than the robots (mostly this was because we had really efficient, hardworking drivers and the robots needed special accommodations and could not handle all special cases).

I left the company because it was very demoralizing working alongside people who you were being paid to replace. But make no mistake, the autonomous forklifts would have been cheaper if the company had to employ the drivers directly, taking the hit to their safety record and bottom line.

There are other ideas for increasing the bargaining position of American labor and reducing capital inequality. For example, plugging up the mechanisms by which trade deficit capital returns to the United States (through economics--not by law, so by increasing property taxes in cities with big foreign investment, reducing the federal debt, switching to regional taxation system, etc.). Another example, if economics, as a collective school of thought, could reconsider its obsession with monetary inflation and consider if technology driven deflation is actually a bad thing. A worker getting a deflationary pay raise would be in a much stronger bargaining position and would actually be claiming some of the rewards of all the technological advances of capitalism by default.


That just seems so paternalistic to me. You agree that those low on the totem-pole should have it better but handing them a method of direct-action, to collectively and directly make their work environments better doesn't make sense?

>Instead of helping the workers it more seeks to punish American capitalists--including all the people like me who hope to retire in the future with investments that grow.

This is actual nonsense. If you don't believe that making the middle and lower class better off is good for an economy, I don't know what to tell you.


I know I shouldn't be taking the bait but here goes anyway.

Smart union leaders today would be working on organizing and building relationship with peers in other countries. Fighting for US state backed monopolies is fighting on the old battleground with outdated weapons that may be immoral (state enforced monopolies often are).

> That just seems so paternalistic to me. You agree that those low on the totem-pole should have it better but handing them a method of direct-action, to collectively and directly make their work environments better doesn't make sense?

If were going to use the loaded word paternalistic, requiring people to be a union member is more paternalistic than giving them the option. Also I propose policies that (I think) would make work more valuable. Do you think it is fair that the Federal Reserve transfers and additional 2% of workers' pay to capitalists and politicians every year?

> This is actual nonsense. If you don't believe that making the middle and lower class better off is good for an economy, I don't know what to tell you.

Not my belief at all.


>Smart union leaders today would be working on organizing and building relationship with peers in other countries.

Smart union leaders today are trying to figure out how to end right-to-work so they can actually exist.

>Fighting for US state backed monopolies is fighting on the old battleground with outdated weapons that may be immoral (state enforced monopolies often are).

Minor quibble here - that a monopoly exists and that it exists in the US does not make it backed by the state. Monopolies don't need state backing to exist.

But I also agree that we should dust off Teddy Roosevelt's big stick and use it to smash the monopolies/oligopolies if that helps.

>If were going to use the loaded word paternalistic, requiring people to be a union member is more paternalistic than giving them the option.

Right-to-work is about ending free association, it's odd to paint unions as anti-free association. In an ordinary market environment a widget company could set up an exclusive supply deal with a plastic company where plastic is supplied at a set rate under certain agreements and we'd all be fine with that. But if we switch out "plastic" for "labor" and "plastic company" for "labor union" then suddenly we outlaw it. The idea that you think government should interfere in the contractual dealings of labor-supply in our market but not commodity-supply describes the hypocrisy.

>Also I propose policies that (I think) would make their work more valuable.

That's why I called it paternalism. What you think makes their work more valuable is good but even just giving them the tool to decide what is good for themselves is bad.

>Do you think it is fair that the Federal Reserve transfers and additional 2% of workers' pay to capitalists and politicians every year?

Take your Friedman talking points somewhere else.

>Not my belief at all.

But it's exactly what you described. You think that labor organizing in an effort to gain higher pay will hurt your capital investments.

>I know I shouldn't be taking the bait but here goes anyway.

Me too lol.


Hi I wanted to wait a day to have a more personal conversation with you, I hope you see this post.

Idk if you are involved in any union leadership roles, but I am a single earner below the U.S. median income in a rust belt state. I also save some of my income and invest it, so I'm a capitalist. Again if your involved in any union leadership, I would support you if you focused on organizing the monopoly on labor around the world. I like investing my income in American companies and I would rather see workers around the world claim more of their value added, rather than have American companies close, foreign capitalists win, and all labores lose.

With regard to state backed monopolies, I was talking about unions in states without right-to-work. Since it is codified into law that labor cannot exist outside of union X, these unions are state backed monopolies. And I don't really spend any time thinking about whether this is morally justified (ie I don't spend any time thinking about whether we should have right to work laws), it is a pointless thing to spend time on because companies can manufacture anywhere in the world but there is no global government with power to enforce its laws globally. So right to work exists, regardless of what the states of Michigan or Ohio thinks. There is evidence for this being true as there has been a long term decline in private sector unions coinciding with globalization, but no similar fall in public sector unions, because for public sector work the workers possible locations are trivially within the jurisdiction of the government.

> Take your Friedman talking points somewhere else.

Wow ad hominem much? Marx and Keynes also have the index of prices as a fundamental variable in their equations. It doesn't matter to my point about 2% inflation whether the head of the Fed is more Marxist, Keynesian, or Friedman monetarist. As long as the Fed mandate is to have inflation there will continue to be a long term, regressive redistribution of workers wages towards existing capital and those with the power to borrow new capital. I am actively, in my life, trying to get Democratic Party leaders to admit this is true so that I can justify voting for one. It is super duplicitous for Obama to speak so much about inequality and support minimum wage increases yet at the same time stab all the workers in the back by tripling the currency supply and continuing the policy of long term inflation wage theft.

Neither Obama nor Trump started these policies but I don't know which is morally worse, systematically lying about it and covering it up or simply not caring about unfair inequality at all.

An easy change we (the U.S.) could implement on our own, next election, that would reduce wealth inequality in America without hurting economic growth at home or the people in developing nations... would be remitting the Federal Reserves' profits directly to the people as cash dividends. If this had been in place this year every citizen would be receiving around $300. The shareholders of the federal reserve should be the people, equally. When powerful capitalist benefit from the system, the little capitalist should get their share of the rewards too. After this the next step is resetting the inflation target to be always within a tight band on either side of zero.


> I don't really get this line of thinking, it just seems like a denial of globalization, automation, and economics.

So what is the qualitative change in these three factors that changed so much in your opinion? Globalization was important for the US from its very inception (example: European price and production developments where a big factor in the Panic of 1819[1]). And productivity growth has been more or less constant over the last 100+ years [2][3].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1819

[2] https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*i79QfQsgSagYNZl17o...

[3] https://www.bls.gov/lpc/prodybar.htm


I think it has been the gradual march of technological progress and globalization. For example remember the civil war was largely fought over protectionist trade policies for northern manufacturers. And that was in the age of sail when many goods would not even make if from North America to Europe. Similar protectionist policies would be unthinkable now. Also the rise of America from being an upstart industrial power like China and India are today to being a wealthy nation with (relatively) high standards of living for its low and middle class.

Unions are fascinating, honestly I am surprised that the era in which they were strong ever existed so early in history. They rely on having a monopoly on labor or at least a large percentage of it but with modern transportation the size of the labor pool is just too large and too poor for a relatively small, wealthy nation like the US to organize it.

If I had to point to seminal events causing the change, they would be construction of the Suez and Panama Canal, MacArthur's reconstruction of Japan, and Nixon opening trade with China. This last one could be the reason we are all still alive today, but clearly the American middle and lower class have born the brunt of the costs relative to where we all were after WWII.

Btw thanks for the discussion. Has been a while since I read about panic of 1819! I also blame the aspects of Keynesian economics that do not constrain the growth of government debt for increasing the power of existing wealth relative to the working class, but I admit that is a more questionable opinion.


>For example remember the civil war was largely fought over protectionist trade policies for northern manufacturers.

That's a falsehood pushed by the south to deny their support of slavery. This short video about it from prager University is helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcy7qV-BGF4

Here you can read South Carolina's actual declaration of Succession, where they make a point of spending most of the 13 pages talking about how their "right" of slavery was being infringed upon: http://www.teachingushistory.org/pdfs/DecImmCauses.pdf


My previous reply is being down voted a lot so I'll try again and compare them.

These tariffs were effectively a tax on slavery and a redistribution of income from agriculturalists in the south to industrialists in the north. The major cause of the South's succession may have been slavery, but the immediate cause can still be these taxes which were putative to slavery. They didn't suceed in response to the emancipation proclamation.


Either way, my point is that tariffs and protectionism had profound economic impact benefiting the industrial north and Midwest at that time.

I'm not sure if people even at that time knew which of the two was the more prominent cause of the war.


Edit: MacArthur's reconstruction of Japan is just a easily identifiable event. What I am really saying though is how industrious the Japanese people have been since the age of exploration. Perhaps the seminal event should have been Commodore Perry or the Meiji restoration.

Of course, that too comes with it's negatives. Unions have both positives and negatives. It's not a simple discussion.

Corporations have both positives and negatives, yet somehow there's never a debate over whether we should have those.

It's very strange to me that employees organizing and working together is so controversial, but management doing the same thing is not only expected but we can't even envision anything else.


I think one reason it seems so strange is that it is sort of a mis-characterization/failure of communication that easily happens in politics. There is nothing wrong with unions in principle, but once someone has written into law exactly what a union is, then the possibility for mistakes and unintended negative consequences exist. When the UAW were fighting for better wages and conditions in bygone days, I don't think many at that time thought the same laws would contribute to GM declaring bankruptcy and needing to be bailed out by all 300+ million Americans, who were never involved in any of the bad decisions made.

And reasonable people can quibble about who shoulders more of the blame, but one can't deny that American labor costs were significantly higher than foreign competition and were largely impossible to adjust.

Unions today need better leaders, who realize that the future is in collaborating across national borders with their brethren at all global corporations. The United States simply cannot enforce its own labor laws in China or any other proud nation. Workers created unions themselves, they did not need government to do it for them...which is good because neither the US nor Russia or China rules the whole world.


Unions are a counter-balance to corporate power which helps to preserve the power of labor. That unions have some negatives does not mean we should not have them.

What is an alternative to unions that gives workers some power in the relationship between worker and employer?

The ability to get another job.

A company with 100 employees losing an employee costs them ~1% of their revenue until a replacement can be found.

An employee losing their employer loses ~100% of their revenue until a replacement is found.

The two are nowhere near equivalent.

On the other hand, when employees unionize, a company with 100 employees stands to lose ~100% of their revenue if employees choose to strike. That puts the two sides on an even footing.


And when companies coordinate to prevent that? It doesn't even have to be explicit behind the scenes coordination. Companies that base your salary offer off of your previously salary are still coordinating even though they don't plan it

Why? All the law does is prevent compulsory membership in a union. That seems like a good thing.

No, because it introduces the free rider problem. It creates an incentive for any particular union member to defect from the union, because they no longer have to pay fees, but are legally entitled to whatever the union negotiated for.

It's like a law that prevents compulsory membership in a fire insurance plan, but also allows you to sign up for retroactive fire insurance after your house burns down.

It's sole purpose is union-busting.


> but are legally entitled to whatever the union negotiated for.

How so? Wouldn't they be independently discussing their salary with management at that point? What law guarantees that non union workers get the same benefits as union workers?


Thanks to the National Labor Relations Act, if a union represents >50% of employees of a company, then the union's negotiations apply to all employees.

So, you have an incentive to not pay union dues, as whatever the union negotiates for, you will get without paying a penny. Not to mention that if there's a members-only agreement, where members get more pay/benefits/etc, this creates a reason for an employer to not hire union.

Due to this, unions can't really fight for members-only agreements.


Sounds like the National Labor Relations Act needs to be repealed as opposed to right to work laws.

Even if it weren't repealed, non-union members would still freeload off the work of union members. Let's say that a union forms, and persuades management to fix a light switch that gives you electric shocks every time you flip it. [1]

Management agrees to fix the light switch. They most certainly are not going to fix it in such a way that it only shocks non-union members. This is an example of a employee gain that was only possible because of a union, but benefits all workers, union or not. [2]

The problem is not the NLRA, it's the right-to-work-for-less legislature. It deliberately undermines collective bargaining from the employee's side (But does nothing to hamstring collective bargaining from the employer's side.)

[1] I kid you not, this has been an actual issue at a McDonalds, which unionized. http://www.themilitant.com/1998/6232/6232_27.html

[2] Back in the day, workers would be locked inside their workplaces, so that they couldn't leave work early. Unsurprisingly, when fires would start, they would burn to death. Unions eventually fought for protection from this - a protection which you, a non-union member now benefit from.


How would temp agency workers having collective bargaining with the temp agency (their employer) prevent Fiera from switching to a non-unionized temp agency?

I'd prefer not being forced into a union myself if my compensation was linked to the productivity of my peers I'd make much less.

I'd prefer all sorts of things that I don't get. See this portion of my other comment:

Right-to-work is about ending free association, it's odd to paint unions as anti-free association. In an ordinary market environment a widget company could set up an exclusive supply deal with a plastic company where plastic is supplied at a set rate under certain agreements and we'd all be fine with that. But if we switch out "plastic" for "labor" and "plastic company" for "labor union" then suddenly we outlaw it. The idea that you think government should interfere in the contractual dealings of labor-supply in our market but not commodity-supply describes the hypocrisy.


Workers could form a corporation and enter into such a deal if they wished, this is about forcing new employees to use the contract other employees have negotiated.

> what other ways do we have of increasing the bargaining position of labor?

You tighten the labor market.

It's not coincidental that unions, which depend on a tight labor market for a bargaining position (striking is fundamentally their real weapon), have been on a downhill trend since basically the same time that trade laws were changed to favor capital, via removing barriers to both foreign labor and foreign trade. In some cases the labor supply is slackened by bringing in more workers, in some cases by just offshoring production to a place where the labor market is already slack.

Most of the reasons used to justify this were related to the West's perceived existential struggle against Communism: it was necessary to open the door to China trade because that was a wedge against the Soviets; NAFTA was necessary to secure America's standing "as world champion of the free-market cause" (ref. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/09/business/worldbusiness/09i...) as a hedge against an increasingly multipolar world in the 1990s; continued rounds of deals, up until very recently with the failure of the TPP, have always been justified similarly.

Though I am not intimately familiar with Canadian politics historically, I assume that the justifications there were similar (and with significant arm-twisting from their southern neighbor).

Intriguingly, the necessary sacrifices for American leadership (let's not call it 'hegemony'), in the form of the cost of economic subsidies to Western allies necessary to keep them toeing the free market line, have always seemed to fall on American -- and Canadian, apparently -- workers, and benefited businesses and business owners. Workers are constantly reassured that, despite appearances, these deals have been good for the country, and somehow by extension also them personally, but this explanation is starting to wear thin, as it becomes more and more apparent that the gains have gone to a small portion of the country at the expense of a great many. The gig is seemingly up.

Pro-trade, pro-business parties (such as the British Columbia Liberal Party, mentioned in the article as a recipient of donations from the factory owners) should take note of the current state of the US Republican Party, and take steps not to overplay their hand. While the gains made by businesses and capital owners at the expense of industrial workers are impressive, history suggests that going down this road too far leads to what we might politely call a "disruptive overcorrection", either to the political hard right or hard left. In the US, we have seen this frustration elect the first unashamed populist and trade skeptic of the modern era (well, at least, someone the electorate apparently thought was a populist; time will tell); if things had gone a bit differently we might have gotten free-trade skepticism in the form of a Socialist (Sanders).

The current path, or just telling workers in the industrialized world to suck it up until they hit wage parity with the developing world, is not sustainable. Governments that try may find themselves replaced by governments that don't.


I couldn't agree more with everything you have said here!

On the justifications for opening international trade, I believe, contrarily, that Nixon was one of the greatest president of the 20th century and that opening trade with China was a most important decision affecting humanity's survival. But since then, government policy has seemed blind to the fact that the working class has been paying all of the costs.

I agree we need to do something in the meantime, before global prosperity is able to rise close enough to our own. Conveniently, I also think the current organization of global fiat currencies is exacerbating the effects of globalization on American workers and preventing them from benefiting from technological advances which would otherwise be minimizing the problem. If we could get our government spending under control, then set the target inflation rate to zero, and even be unafraid of minor deflation caused by manufacturing and efficiency improvements...this would do a lot to blunt the growing inequality between existing wealth and work. Trade deficits financed by fiat currency would have a supply/demand correction if we didn't provide so many short circuits for reserve note capital to return to the US.


The solution is simple: make every company involved in a project liable for every worker.

Worker has an accident? Make sure that both the factory, the temp agency, and any intermediaries are liable.

If every company involved in a project was liable for ensuring employment laws are upheld, there would be no point in using “temp agencies” to shift the blame.

Temp agencies are a somewhat recent move to circumvent employment laws; we should be able to fix that loophole.


Its not that there are no consequences for safety incidents involving temp workers. It is more about company prestige and preserving the existing benefits of being an full team member. Both of the companies I worked for had very good safety records among all workers in the facility, most serious incident in years was a severed thumb.

American companies generally have good safety records and a good regulatory environment. Contracting the riskier jobs is mostly done to safeguard the company's image, or it is like other contracted jobs and is done for cost savings or temporary work. With forklift drivers, there was just always going to be some minor collision incident every month, and its easier for the big company bureaucracy if this doesn't count towards their accident statistic or if some other account can be billed for the damage. Its just risk aversion and risk management since the penalties are high for screw ups and protecting the image of the company treating its employees well. Also they could be paid at ~1/2 the total compensation of a team member.


> I am not sure what a solution is, after all these types of temp companies only exist to skirt existing labor laws, suggesting these laws may defy economics a bit too much.

The solution is to limit the labour pool or, in other words, limiting immigration.

> Pulling back from globalization would, but that is bad economics and bad for national security.

How is it bad economics? And what is your benchmark for success? Are you optimising for GDP, for quality of life, GDP per capita, what?

> Or perhaps we should just continue waiting until the rest of the world develops and the supply of labor finally becomes constrained.

Good luck with that, it'll take 200 years.


Correct, limiting immigration is a solution. While I personally am more favorable toward immigration, I respect people who support Trump's opinion on this. They have a point, the contract between citizens is...between citizens.

Bad economics from the point of view of maximum efficiency of human labor across all humanity.

I was not suggesting we just wait complacently, more lamenting that it seems to be the only not-actively-failing policy idea we have pursued up to this point.


> Bad economics from the point of view of maximum efficiency of human labor across all humanity.

Only if you think of humanity as a labour pool. Immigration hurts developing countries as it siphons away labour and especially educated labour, preventing their development... If the goal is economic parity across nations, you help the development of other countries through investment, not by taking their workers.


Smart people emigrating to a place where their talents can be put to use and then sending their greater earnings back home is efficient. I don't think that economic parity across nations should be a primary goal of any nation's policy, but I do think it is basically an inevitable, positive side effect of trade. As an aside, I'm also not 100% sure maximum efficiency of human labor across all humanity should be a goal of national policy either, but that is usually what I consider good economics.

> Smart people emigrating to a place where their talents can be put to use and then sending their greater earnings back home is efficient.

It's not though, because the sudden influx of foreign money in a concentrated number of hands causes inflation in the home country, making the cost of living higher for those living there, while the majority are still working lower paying jobs. Not to mention the efficiency loss from the fact they're driving down wages in the host country; so they're losing market value on one end, and then driving inflation on the other (and when prices are higher than the local economy can support it's not efficient).

My ex came from a country that suffered from mass emigration, the place is a complete shit-show and is actually less developed today than it was 30 years ago. Half the buildings are abandoned, most are dilapidated, corruption is everywhere, and now the place is a major drug trafficking hub.

> I don't think that economic parity across nations should be a primary goal of any nation's policy, but I do think it is basically an inevitable, positive side effect of trade.

This should definitely be a goal of anyone who cares about alleviating global poverty and suffering.

> As an aside, I'm also not 100% sure maximum efficiency of human labor across all humanity should be a goal of national policy either, but that is usually what I consider good economics.

There's no such thing as good or bad economics. Economics just describes what is. You can have multiple 'good' or 'bad' policies. It really just depends what you want to optimise for.

Also, maximum efficiency often comes at the cost of driving the price of labour down. If everything was 100% efficient, far less labour would be required than is being used right now, so in the end it comes down to ownership of capital and how things are distributed.


I think we mostly agree on most things were talking about.

>> I don't think that economic parity across nations should be a primary goal of any nation's policy, but I do think it is basically an inevitable, positive side effect of trade.

> This should definitely be a goal of anyone who cares about alleviating global poverty and suffering.

Agreed it is very admirable to spend your wealth, time, or influence in a ways that alleviate real poverty around the world. However I don't think it is in the contract between citizens of a nation that their taxes should be spent on this to a large extent.

> It's not though, because the sudden influx of foreign money in a concentrated number of hands causes inflation in the home country, making the cost of living higher for those living there, while the majority are still working lower paying jobs. Not to mention the efficiency loss from the fact they're driving down wages in the host country; so they're losing market value on one end, and then driving inflation on the other (and when prices are higher than the local economy can support it's not efficient).

Being from the US where people want to immigrate to, I haven't thought about this a whole lot and not sure if I understand all of what you are saying. Surely having a wealthy outside investor who is originally from your own country is better or at least equal to another outside investor? Do people lose voting rights when they emigrate, for most countries? (not rhetorical)

> Also, maximum efficiency often comes at the cost of driving the price of labour down. If everything was 100% efficient, far less labour would be required than is being used right now, so in the end it comes down to ownership of capital and how things are distributed.

Again agreed, although the price of capital and living should also be falling! I am not sure what we are talking about with regard to good and bad economics being a thing. All of that was just answering your correct call for clarification about what I meant above.


> Agreed it is very admirable to spend your wealth, time, or influence in a ways that alleviate real poverty around the world. However I don't think it is in the contract between citizens of a nation that their taxes should be spent on this to a large extent.

Yes and no. You're right, a government should provide mainly for its own people. However the stability of the whole world is important for national security and national prosperity. See what's happening in Europe right now: a massive influx of immigrants, increased terrorist attacks, increased crime, etc... I go to Europe semi-regularly (mainly France), and in my travels the difference over the years hasn't been particularly positive.

The main problem is that mass immigration isn't a real solution, Europe and the US/Canada can't support the entire world's population. Development of underdeveloped regions of the world has to be a priority if we want to survive on our planet in the long-term.

> I haven't thought about this a whole lot and not sure if I understand all of what you are saying. Surely having a wealthy outside investor who is originally from your own country is better or at least equal to another outside investor?

It's because the money isn't generally used as an investment, but rather minimum wage workers from the US/Canada send back money to their families, which merely supplements their income. On a whole the influx of money drives up prices, without contributing much to development.

I'd agree if workers came to the US/Canada for 10 years, saved, then went back and invested in their home country. That's generally not how it works though. Workers come here, send small amounts of money back, eventually sponsor their families, and then they all leave.

If you look at statistics as well, it's not the countries with the most ex-pats (and I mean as a percentage of population, not in absolute numbers) that are growing the quickest, but rather countries with a stable rule of law which make investment more attractive (and re-investment by those within the country).

> Again agreed, although the price of capital and living should also be falling!

The problem is that as capital (and land) gets concentrated in fewer hands, the income earned from capital outpaces the income earned from labour, resulting in lower relative wealth for the labour side of the equation. Thomas Piketty explains this well, and has amassed a seriously impressive set of data to back up all his assertions.


> Yes and no. You're right, a government should provide mainly for its own people. However the stability of the whole world is important for national security and national prosperity.

Again agreed, I think Nixon was the greatest recent president because he opened China and we are all still alive today.

> The main problem is that mass immigration isn't a real solution, Europe and the US/Canada can't support the entire world's population.

Agreed.

> It's because the money isn't generally used as an investment, but rather minimum wage workers from the US/Canada send back money to their families, which merely supplements their income. On a whole the influx of money drives up prices, without contributing much to development.

I'm not sure I see the logic to this. I guess the extra flow of American dollars into the country would make industrial exports more expensive, so perhaps that 1 job in America would cost the developing nation a fraction of a new factory job at home. Not really sure I see the net downside though (from POV of developing nation). Also this sounds like it would cause deflation in the developing nation, not inflation.

> If you look at statistics as well, it's not the countries with the most ex-pats (and I mean as a percentage of population, not in absolute numbers) that are growing the quickest, but rather countries with a stable rule of law which make investment more attractive (and re-investment by those within the country).

Are these two things mutually exclusive and how are they correlated? That's what I was trying to suggest, wondering if expats get to vote.

> The problem is that as capital (and land) gets concentrated in fewer hands, the income earned from capital outpaces the income earned from labour, resulting in lower relative wealth for the labour side of the equation. Thomas Piketty explains this well, and has amassed a seriously impressive set of data to back up all his assertions.

I can't dismiss Piketty's work but his data was all collected in the context of the current economic system, which I think has several flaws that negate overreaching conclusions (IDK if they are his conclusions or media's reporting). Namely the exponential-without-limit monetary inflation of fiat currencies by western governments. Also land is a fixed resource so the appropriate way to fix this is really simple and well established: property taxes. If technology advances to the point that capital is basically free and labor is basically worthless...it doesn't really matter if the ratio stayed the same, IMO. At that point it will just matter how attractive, funny, creative, and good at sports you are.


> what other ways do we have of increasing the bargaining position of labor?

You tighten the labor market.

It's not coincidental that unions, which depend on a tight labor market for a bargaining position (striking is fundamentally their real weapon), have been on a downhill trend since basically the same time that trade laws were changed to favor capital, via removing barriers to both foreign labor and foreign trade. In some cases the labor supply is slackened by bringing in more workers, in some cases by just offshoring production to a place where the labor market is already slack.

Most of the reasons used to justify this were related to the West's perceived existential struggle against Communism: it was necessary to open the door to China trade because that was a wedge against the Soviets; NAFTA was necessary to secure America's standing "as world champion of the free-market cause" ([per the NYT](http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/09/business/worldbusiness/09i...) as a hedge against an increasingly multipolar world in the 1990s; continued rounds of deals, up until very recently with the failure of the TPP, have always been justified similarly.

Though I am not intimately familiar with Canadian politics historically, I assume that the justifications there were similar (and with significant arm-twisting from their southern neighbor).

Intriguingly, the necessary sacrifices for American leadership (let's not call it 'hegemony', it has such an ... imperialist ring to it), in the form of the cost of economic subsidies to Western allies necessary to keep them toeing the free market line, have always seemed to fall on American -- and Canadian, apparently -- workers, and benefited American businesses and business owners. Workers are constantly reassured that these deals have been good for the country, but this explanation is starting to wear thin, as it becomes more and more apparent that the gains have gone to a small portion of the country at the expense of a great many.

Free-trade proponents have managed to extract a great deal from labor, but the gig is seemingly up.

Pro-trade, pro-business parties such as the British Columbia Liberal Party should take note of the current state of the US Republican Party, and take steps not to overplay their hand. While the gains made by businesses and capital owners at the expense of industrial workers are historically audacious (in the sense that they didn't result in getting anyone killed by an angry mob, which should be ),


I don't understand how this strategy works. Company A doesn't want to hire employees because employees have rights. Instead, they hire temps from Company B who abuses their employees' rights.

Why doesn't the government start policing the abuse of rights by Company B? Why doesn't the government pass laws that acknowledge that these employees are truly employees of Company A?


> Company A doesn't want to hire employees because employees have rights. Instead, they hire temps from Company B who abuses their employees' rights

See also related (and discussed on here if I am not mistaken): To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/upshot/to-understand-risi...)

Even companies that do not want to abuse their employees' rights do it at the end for all externalized jobs (cleaning or food related jobs, especially)


Due to this report by the Star, that's exactly what is happening:

https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/09/11/temp-work...

Good investigative journalism can light a fire under companies and politicians pretty quickly when it makes them look bad.


Read up on the concept of "moral hazard." These temp companies are small entities, often run out of homes. If you go after them, they'll simply liquidate and fold up shop. Small entities have an advantage in highly regulated environments, because the most they can lose is 100% of their assets, while they stand to gain many multiples of that. Incorporation laws prevent owners from being liable for the debts of the corporation, in most cases, so in the event of a failure, the owners dust themselves off and move on to the next.

Large corporations love to outsource risky/dangerous/questionable activities to small firms who are willing to gamble.


Hazardous waste disposal companies are also small for the same reason.

Ignoring all the other things mentioned in comments, just assuming the simple case where Company B fully hires the employees. It's still an "advantage" for the bosses, because if things go wrong you can close Company B without much impact on the business of Company A. They just create Company C and continue.

First, as stated in the article Company B practically doesn't exist and if it gets closed, it can reappear as Company C next door. Second, because the people writing these laws didn't envision such greed and now there's too much lobbying money thrown around.


> now there's too much lobbying money thrown around

But this is Canada! We have strict political donation laws and campaign spending laws that really prevent lobbying from getting nuts like it is in America.

I'm mostly upset because this is in my back yard. I could be at this factory in 20 minutes in current traffic conditions.


Even with laws like that large companies have a lot of advantages in lobbying for laws. First it's much easier for a large company to get lobbyists because they have the money to hire them where workers and worker rights groups have smaller purses to draw from. Second the things companies lobby for have nice big metrics they can trot out, profitability, GDP or job growth, etc where improving working conditions for industry X doesn't have a nice big number you can trot out or even really benefits everyone in a way they can appreciate where the pro-business side can draw more direct 'regulation X killed this many jobs last year, repeal it and we swear we won't be evil.'

Exactly. Some of these companies don't even have any capital. If Company A withholds payment one week, they can't pay their employees. Capitalism without capital! They are best classified as leeches.

Temps are usually not employees of company B, they will be contractors where B are operating as an "agency". If you look at the paperwork everyone involved will be "self-employed"

> pass laws that acknowledge that these employees are truly employees of Company A?

It's hard to draft this without completely ruling out even legitimate temp jobs. Does working at the factory for a week make you an employee? How about for a day, or an hour?


There already is a degree of control test for false contractors.

Who controls the persons time? Who controls their work? Who supplie equipment? Is there an opportunity for profit or loss? Do they have the right to subcontract? etc


Yes.


I'm a self-employed IT Contractor. I actively don't want to be an employee.

If you hire a plumber to do a job in your home for an hour is he now your employee?


No.

There are clear differences on who is responsible here. We can expect a factory to be always responsible over their area as it is a larger entity and doing business and we expect them to be experts and be in control of their own domain. We can expect them to be responsible over their non skilled labourers.

A plumber is the expert in this case and he controls his domain while you are just a dumb customer.


That's why it's not simple - you've got lots of things open to debate there - who is skilled or unskilled, who is a business, who is a 'larger' entity, who is the expert. That's why it's more complicated than just saying 'yes' with an emphatic full stop.

Then start defining those into laws. I think my country already has those defined pretty well thanks to strong unions.

You'll never get there if you don't even start.


Because the government has been hi-jacked by an anti-government party?

This is partisan politicizing at it's worst. The practices at this facility have been going on for decades, through many governments. It's a failure of government pure and simple, and blaming it on one side or the other does nothing to help.

In Canada?

Many companies in countries like Canada and Australia are now trying harder than ever to emulate the United States with it's extremely low wages, health, benefits, etc. for temp or casual workers.

Unfortunately, it's a race to the bottom, as tens of millions of Americas will attest to.

My simple question is - can we justify treating humans like this in the name of increasing profit?


My second question is : why don't union gets bigger and stronger ? Millions can't be put on the brink on poverty without an answer.

Yesterday, on a european TV, I saw a documentary about middle class people who became half-homeless (their words). They were just unlucky to loose their jobs. Now I understand they may have had too much credits or debts here and there but, these were middle class, that is, they went down the social path. That's scary.


The Bourgeois State, in both the US and Europe, has put a lot of work into undermining Unions, and Labour power in general, all in the service of Capital interests.

These outcomes are not surprising, this is literally the project of NeoLiberalism. A feature, not a bug.


> My second question is : why don't union gets bigger and stronger ?

Due to a combination of anti-union propaganda, (US only?) unions having an image of being corrupt and the shift to "gig economy" which was specifically created to combat unions...


Almost no Belgians in Belgium are homeless. I haven't seen anyone, although there seems to be some in the main capital.

I know a lot of refugees live in sheltes and currently there are homeless people in Brussels due to the breakup of Calais. But these people don't want to get asile in Belgium, but want to go to the UK. So that's why they don't receive anything here. That is their choice ofc.


Yep, statistically there are not many. But people helped by "social security" is growing faster than demographics. Those people are at the last level of social welfare, after that they're super close to homelessness.

the thing is, before being homeless, you're already in deep shit.

for refugees, I think you're right but "their choice" is a way to frame them that is a bit harsh. I see many of them everyday close to north station (brussels) and I doubt it was their choice to be there in the first place.

(edited the station, it's the north one :-))


>>ut these people don't want to get asile in Belgium, but want to go to the UK. So that's why they don't receive anything here. That is their choice ofc.

It's not their choice. EU rules say they should claim asylum in the first EU country they arrive in.


No offense, by numbers yet, by percentage of population it is similar to most other countries. We had other such declarations here recently but it all comes down to not seeing what is there to be seen. Homelessness exist in most part because they are invisible to the average person.

2011, 50,000 estimated with ten percent of that permanently on the streets. Number looks low until you realize the population is under twelve million total.

we must never allow ourselves to believe there isn't a problem. don't look a the numbers but concentrate on the percentage of the population.

I know it so much easier to demagogue other countries for their "problem" but do note, countries like the US where I am in report it and have many organizations which exist to remind people there is a problem. That doesn't mean its worse here, by percentages we are below many EU countries but as a physical number it looks bad because we have three hundred million plus people to start with


I was going to say, I thought I saw plenty of homeless people in Brussels when I visited awhile ago. Now Switzerland really doesn't have homeless people as far as I can tell.


More importantly, why don't strong unions do something about it? The mid-1980s saw the strongest unionization period for Canada – with nearly a 40% unionization rate – but all the of same declines mentioned by the parent were quite visible then. Wages, for instance, have been stagnant since the late 1960s. There was plenty of opportunity to fix the problems during those best union years.

Unionization has declined somewhat since that time, but is still fairly strong in Canada today, with about 30% unionization. The six strongest unionized country in the world. That matches the peak unionization rate for the USA (down to about 10% today), which is heralded for bringing great working improvements for the American worker. There really should be no reason why the current unions in Canada cannot improve on these things. History has shown that 30% unionization is enough to change the world.

I expect that unionization is declining, rather than strengthening, because the potential members are feeling like the unions have become self-serving or are resting on their laurels.


If those people were made homeless after losing their jobs they were definitely not "middle class". There is almost no middle class anymore and nobody wants to accept that they are apart of the poor, lower class. It's hard to change reality when nobody believes it.


If I own a company, I can justify anything short of illegal activities to increase profit. If you don't want companies to behave in a certain way, get it outlawed.


This is a bullshit perspective when companies lobby and play all sorts of tricks to manipulate the law itself.


This is too naive.

a) Companies will even do illegal stuff as long as they can do it and the lawsuits are not too expensive.

b) You can't make everything illegal. Smart people will always find a way no matter how strict your system is.

c) Yes, many people/companies will exploit others if they can. If you evaluate statistically that's actually "normal behaviour".


According to the article they, or their affiliates, are violating the law in several ways.


I agree 100%.

That is why I am starting a conversation. Change starts with a conversation.


You can justify some illegal activities, it's not a crime if nobody finds out / cares.


> it's not a crime if nobody finds out / cares

Sure it is. Someone living off-grid who kills their kid and successfully disposes of the body might get away with it, but it's still a horrific crime.


> can we justify treating humans like

Surely not.

Not for any reason, let alone for profit.


I find it ironic that the race to the bottom is also driven by more constrained salaries. People earn less, they'll look for cheaper choices

> it's extremely low wages

"its extremely low wages"


The last letter sent from Fiera to The Star[1] is scathing. Fiera is trying so very hard to play the victim to The Stars mean and "underhanded" tactics to get information about their operations. It probably would have served them better to just remain silent instead of sending this response.

[1] http://projects.thestar.com/temp-employment-agencies/letters...


I don't know, I find that letter pretty convincing actually. They seem pissed, but they also make a lot of valid points.

At this point isn't it reasonable to assume that companies will not tell you the truth if it puts them in a bad light, and you would need to go undercover to find that truth? Companies cant tell their shareholders on one side that they are doing everything to maximize profit, and on the other side say that they will show their operations with all the good and the bad to anyone who asks.

Not really. I believe the journalist did sign a document that she knew where the emergency exits were, and the only "damning" thing she found on-site was an unclean bathroom and generally difficult work.

This whole thing seems like such a non-story to me. Maybe it's because I've worked in factories before, but I've personally had more harrowing experiences on my 1st day than anything mentioned in this article.


Unreachable emergency stop buttons? Moving parts of a fan next to workers without safety covers? Workers fighting for space next to a crowded conveyor belt? Missing guard rails? Repeated fines for lacking safety? Everything about this factory sounds like a death trap.

Until these things are flagged upon inspection (and they would) I'd take it with a big grain of salt.

I don't, given that core claims in the letter, which is clearly drafted in anticipation of litigation by legal, are contradicted by the reporting.

Maybe you just get a sense of when a lawyer making shit up and slinging shit after you've put together a few dozen similar letters.


I used to work in similar places. They suck. There's a reason people don't wear loose fitting clothing around machinery though.

A lot of the author's complaints are just part for the course in these kinds of environments. Low margin industries suck in general.

The problem here isn't temp agencies it's companies that would be doing bad things anyway hire their full time workforce though temp agencies to create level of abstraction that helps avoid liability. Obviously there's temp agencies that cater directly to this but the problem is on the demand side. Some companies want to treat people badly and they can use temp agencies to do it.

I know people who have done very well (or as well as you can for those kinds of jobs) at temp agencies. Employers can use a temp agency and if they like the temp(s) they get they can direct hire the temp(s) and cut out the middle man. This doesn't happen when your entire workforce is temps though.


> The problem here isn't temp agencies it's companies that would be doing bad things anyway hire their full time workforce though temp agencies to create level of abstraction that helps avoid liability.

The problem is worse than that. Companies are providing insufficient worker trainings/protection to save money and hiding behind a temp agency for any consequences of that decision. That way, when they get inevitably get sued, the temp agency can declare bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the plant reassigns the contract to a "new" company who then hires most of the same workers.

Here's how it works:

- A holding company owns the factory and everything in it (equipment, etc). Skilled labor (technicians, etc.) work for this company. This is also the company that is most likely to be a subsidiary or joint venture of a publicly traded company that you've heard of.

- An operating company leases the factory from the holding company with the goal of manufacturing something (but often something that the parent company wants). The plant managers are probably the only people who work for this company.

- The operating company hires a temp agency to staff the line.

- The temp workers are employed by the agency to work the line.

- If a worker gets hurt, the temp agency can declare bankrupcy. Temp agencies have few capital assets to go after, so even if you win, you're not likely to get much.

- Even if you can somehow get the operating company included in the suit for negligent oversight, it too has very little in the way of assets.

- The holding company (where the real assets exist) is protected by several layers of liability.

- The publicly traded company is out of the loop entirely, but still gets cheap products to sell at their stores. Risk is transferred to workers in order to save money.


> Fiera’s current clients include some of the continent’s biggest brands including Dunkin’ Donuts and Sobeys; over the years it has made pastries for Costco, Tim Hortons, Metro, Walmart, and Loblaw. Its factories churn out baked goods by the truckload, destined for markets across North America and around the world. They can produce 2 million bagels alone per day.

Retail boycotts have been used against clothing sweatshops.

Is there a reliable way to identify North American baked goods which originate from these temp-labor factories? If all the large distributors use the same suppliers, are there local bakeries which provide better labor conditions and create better product?


Consider getting a bread maker: Keurig for bread.


The results for me have always been sub par, and the varieties very limited. The better solution, I found, was the bakery. Bread is cheap there and there is a ton of variety. It's all made expertly by a baker, not some gimmicky machine.

Or a mixing bowl and 15 minutes or so to hand-knead. You don't need a machine, likely also made in a factory under similar conditions, to make bread dough.

I agree. As someone who bakes bread frequently there are many recipes that don't require anything beyond ingredients , a bowl, and oven and some trays.

However, if you're really doing some serious dough, or just want to branch out. A kitchenaid mixer makes it way easier to get windowpain, and if you're all about the yeast, a food thermometer can be good.


Bake it yourself or there are plenty of bakeries (and supermarkets) that actually bake their bread and pastries on site. Its pretty easy to tell, or you can just ask. Support your local baker.

The factory in question supplies places like Dunkin donuts and highway rest-stops. Much better to go hungry than eat that stuff-- aside from the labor abuses, its just bad stuff.


You don't need a bread maker, just learn to make it by hand. It's really quite easy.

as an ex-temp worker: that's how it is. You want to work, you have to put up with the stuff they throw at you. No. It's not fair. No. It's not just. It's for the poor. It's for the uneducated. It's for the immigrants. It's for the vulnerable people, because they are easy to exploit. They don't know their own rights.

Temp offices should not be allowed to exist.


>Temp offices should not be allowed to exist.

I disagree.

Working for a temp agency doing catering, sports venue and whatnot is generally more stable income than working for several places like that directly. Temp agencies work well for industries where demand is variable but predictable.

Companies that use temps to fill their baseline staffing requirements to skirt legal/ethical requirements are terrible though.


Catering companies, sports venues, etc. can still have you on-call. The difference between a temp agency and a catering company is that it completely severs the employment relation which protects the workers by law.

Yes, and that's usually worse than getting a fairly predictable number of hours from a temp agency. A temp agency will generally try to avoid asking an employees to be in multiple places at once. It's a pretty simple resource allocation problem.

I had to depart quickly so I had to cut it short. To elaborate further:

The temp offices usually work with day contracts, allowing them to 'fire' you when you get a bad review, they don't need you that day or they don't like you. This provides a very unstable income.

In my case, the company that was hiring me used the temp jobs as a kind of 'trial period' and easily disposable workforce. If somebody did not live up to expectations, that person does not come back, but every day, 50 of those workers were needed. It took me 1.5 year as a temp worker on day contracts to get a permanent contract from the employer. I was a lucky exception.

Looking back on the stress, the uncertainty, the misery and humiliation I had to undergo to keep the most basic job, I would never, ever go back to that industry again.


That is some great journalism, can't remember the last time I read an article like that. Also telling that this article has less than 20 comments on Hacker News. Or maybe it's a sign of the times that this sort of stuff appears on a tech news site at all.


If you want to see more journalism like this, subscribe to your local newspaper.

Investigative journalism is slow, difficult and expensive. Sometimes it doesn't yield anything worth printing, sometimes it results in a worthy but dull story, sometimes it provokes major social change. You can't afford to do serious investigative work on Adsense revenue.

Local newspapers are uniquely equipped to do this sort of work. They have the local contacts, they have the experienced journalists who know their beat, they have the trust of the community. Agencies like ProPublica do important work, but they're no substitute for grass-roots journalism.


> Also telling that this article has less than 20 comments on Hacker News

It's only been up for an hour, slow down.


In August, charges were laid against Fiera Foods under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for the 2016 death of a temp agency worker named Amina Diaby. Her hijab was caught in a machine, strangling her.

/thread.


Not sure what you're trying to convey?

Every single woodworking shop, electric shop, factory, etc I've been in they always make a big deal about _never_ wearing loose-fitting clothing, long hair or necklaces or bracelets - anything you wouldn't want torn off you at a fast rate of speed with force you remove or restrain. This is common sense and common instruction - I'm not sure what employment safety laws say about this.

If the cause of her death was loose-fitting clothing that's normally prohibited from those environments because it's a serious danger and workers have been getting caught in machinery as long as we've had machinery to get caught in - and the only reason she was able to wear the clothing in that environment was because of her religious rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which states that her religious rights supersede any written legal code) then this mortal risk might be something she fought to take on, even if the company recommended against it.

Imagine for a second that you're a motorcycle police officer, where it's customary (even law) to wear a helmet, but you (for religious reasons) wanted to wear your religious headwear in lieu of a helmet. Then imagine you were killed on the job in a motorcycle crash due to a blow to the skull. Would there be a need for a month-long undercover investigation to uncover the reason you died?


That's the point of the article, I think. Because Fiera doesn't have an employment relationship with the employee, their workers' comp rates will never increase, no matter what happens to the workers. So they don't take the kinds of precautions which would have prevented this worker from dying. I mean, it also severs to human connection between workers and managers, where they just see workers as a dispensable resource, so there also less every day care about safety.

I read that as saying they couldn't stop her from wearing the hijab, which limits their options. Reading the article, it seems like the other deaths were caused by bad LOTO (lock out tag out) practices and one was some kind of traffic accident.

If it were me, I'd look at ways to avoid normalization of deviance. Maybe those with loose clothing can be given other things to wear or put into other roles. Factory jobs are inherently crappy and employers generally given you the legal minimums, as I know from direct experience. It's best to figure out ways to make complying with the rules easier so that most companies and most workers are complying with the law most of the time, but it's hard to give clear answers on how to do that. Hopefully things continue to improve. I'm sure there's a lot of room for it.


Cannot say what the parent wanted to convey, but that particular struck me too.

It is a basic safety rule in any envirnment where machines are present that you cannot wear any loose clothing, (like a scarf, or a hijab, but also wide pants or sleeves) nor jewelry (rings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.).

As a matter of fact later in the article, the journalist reported: >I am told to bring safety shoes, and instructed not to wear a hijab or jewelry.

In most factories AFAIK, besides such a "dress code" there is a responsible that checks that workers are dressed according to such safety rules.


A classic in this type of undercover journalism is the work of Günter Wallraff in (West-)Germany:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%BCnter_Wallraff#Undercove...


How is it not her own fault for wearing dangerous clothing (a hijab) in a factory workplace? Something as simple as long hair can be dangerous in such an environment, and a hijab or scarf is unthinkable. Darwin award.


It's still the employer's fault though, they're supposed to have managers etc that make sure people conform to safety rules and don't wear loose clothes, have their hair tied back, wear hair and beard nets, remove jewellery, wash hands, etc. Actually (reading further in the article myself now), the journalist is told all that.

But on the other hand, there's religious freedom and rules that come into play. In this case though, if she didn't want to remove or replace the loose clothing, she shouldn't be allowed to work near dangerous machinery.


Agree, but in the PC climate of today people are afraid to criticize any expression of Muslim faith even for legitimate reasons such as "wearing a hijab when using this machine will likely get you killed."

https://www.quora.com/Are-hijabs-safe-in-industrial-areas

In case you don't want to visit quora, there's a picture of what looks like a tearaway hijab.


"Darwin award."

I'm a little unclear about your point. Do you mean that Moslems deserve to die, or low skilled workers in general?


A Darwin Award is when a person removes themselves from the gene pool (usually but not always by dying) in a particularly idiotic manner.

It may be distasteful, but it has nothing to do with bias against a particular religion or against low-skilled workers.


This kind of article is a reminder of how much we need traditional newspapers, and what we'd lose if they went away. I sometimes read suggestions that independent bloggers will replace newspapers, but I don't think they can do everything newspaper reporters do. This reporter worked undercover for a month. There would also have been a lot of time spent on background research before she went undercover. Then it would have taken her more time after that to write the article. During all that time she was paid by the Toronto Star. An independent writer could work undercover, and some have, but they're stuck for that period making a very low salary and having to worry about making ends meet.

Then, at least as important, the reporter is backed by the Toronto Star's legal team. I suspect that if she were an independent and published her story on her own blog, this writer would have been sued by the bakery owners and compelled to take the story down. And she would also pay a lot for her legal defense. In this case, if the bakery owners want to sue, they can, but they'll be suing the Toronto Star, which has resources to mount a legal defense, and a voice with which to write about an unjustified lawsuit.

So this seems like real journalism to me, and I don't want it to go away. And when I say "real journalism" I'm thinking of George Orwell's view that "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations."

I'm also thinking of Finley Peter Dunne, who said the point of journalism is to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."


Bloggers can one-up journalists though - there's been a number of critical blog posts and articles from (former) employees at Uber, Google, etc, which eventually cost CEO's their jobs. Actually working and living the life is even better than being a journalist and having to dive into it.


Your examples kind of undermine your point. Disgruntled Uber and Google employees have the writing skills to make their point, they have the technical savvy and the social capital to get their message to a wide audience, they have the confidence and financial resources to resist legal bullying.

In a world without professional journalists, there's no-one to speak out for the poor and marginalised, no-one to unearth stories that are being kept well-hidden by unscrupulous people, no-one to do the months of digging and fact-checking that are involved in a major investigation. Journalism is a highly skilled craft that plays a vital role in society; we can't afford to delegate it to amateurs.


I agree. A number of bloggers have definitely made contributions.

I'd be curious to know if the majority of people writing to expose abuses in their own companies are in white collar companies or companies like the bakery described in the Toronto Star. I would predict that more are in white collar companies, as they are more likely to already be aware of how to get content up on the web. Certainly employees of Uber or Google are. But I'm not aware of any research on this, so my prediction isn't backed by anything substantial.

Still, I think of people like the temp employees at this bakery as being more toward the voiceless end of the continuum, and more in need of a muckraking reporter.


I agree to a certain extent. I think there is an interesting gap between "independent blogger" and "traditional newspaper" that is starting to pop up in sports media and may be able to be successful in typical journalism. This site would be hyper-focused on a specific niche and would have paying customers to access content. Essentially, I think what we see in a traditional city-based newspaper will splinter into 3-5 related sites (one for a state or region that does general news and these types of investigations with smaller local arms for local news) that have paid access (either subscription or per-article pricing) of some sort. I do see some problems with that with non-sports information though.

As an aside, I'm not terribly familiar with bitcoin, but I often wondered if something like reddit's bitcoin bot was the solution to pay per article access. A system where you simply paste your wallet key into the article to unlock the rest of it for a nominal fee ($0.03-$0.08 per article) would seem to be a way to pay for things without a zillion accounts or transactions on your card. I say bitcoin, but, realistically, any universal pool of money that can be quickly withdrawn from without an account on a specific site would be neat. There have been times I wanted to read investigative articles from WSJ or other subscription sites, but I don't want to subscribe or have yet another login. If I could just paste in a code or click Apple Pay for that one article, I gladly would. The counter to that is I don't want every sub $0.50 transaction popping up on my credit card, which is why a universal pool of money like Bitcoin would be best.

I do think the idea of having time and a strong legal team behind you is important for this kind of story. Currently, the best way to access that is a traditional newspaper. Small operations definitely can't take on the legal risks for something like this, which is why an Atlantic model is difficult for hard journalism. I do wonder if independent places would start pooling resources for things like this.


If you impose mandatory higher standards for pay, benefits and training on temp employment agencies, a great many of these jobs will simply cease to exist. Given they're employing some of the most resource-challenged people, such a social intervention is liable to cause far more harm than good.

Perfect is the enemy of the good.


Not sure if you read the article, but no one is talking about a higher standards for pay and benefits. You're literally making generic libertarian points.

The only direct criticism is that they don't enforce their own safety guidelines which leads to the death of their workers. A great many of these jobs can continue to exist even if their managers simply request those with loose garbs or improper safety shoes, etc. to show up with proper clothes.

Moreover, if there were some sort of government mandated safety check (which I'm not arguing for, just saying) the imposed burden is equal to all other competing firms. Unless the onus of taking on such check was so great that they suddenly decide to put all their money into R&D, these jobs will continue to exist.


A lot of people are talking about higher mandatory standards in the wake of this report, most importantly Ontario's Labour Minister:

https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/09/11/temp-work...

Publicity of the working conditions and pay of low-skilled workers invariably leads to calls for more stringent mandatory standards, as if you can outlaw poverty and low-living standards.

>>Unless the onus of taking on such check was so great that they suddenly decide to put all their money into R&D, these jobs will continue to exist.

The effect is on the margins. No single mandate will have a significant impact, but each one adds costs, and in the aggregate, they have a significant effect on economic growth, which is a compounding effect that translates to massive long-term effects.




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