Unionrocks.ca and Anti-Flag stand united in Toronto

July 11, 2012

What are unions and why are they important?

The relationship between a worker and his or her boss is often one in which the boss (employer) creates a set of rules that each worker is expected to obey in order to remain employed. The worker often has little to no say over the content of these rules, including his or her working conditions, salary, benefits, hours, and etc.

Many employers prefer it this way. They argue that the worker isn’t forced to work for anyone, and if they don’t like a specific job, then they can always find a different one.

They said the same thing in the early 20th century, when workers were often expected to work every day for up to 16 hours, injury or death was common due to unsafe machinery and working conditions, women made a fraction of what men made for doing the same job, and wages were far below equilibrium levels. Back then, workers began to realize that their choices were mostly intolerable. Alone, one worker threatening to walk off of the job in protest (striking) would not be enough to force employers to change their ways, but hundreds or thousands of workers walking off together would (see The General Strike). These collections of workers began to refer to themselves as unions, and won many victories in the United States and all over the world that many take for granted today. For one such example, check out Anti-Flag’s song “1915” about about Joe Hill, a union organizer that died fighting for labour rights. Because of people like him, employers were forced to communicate with unions over their work conditions; conditions that have now become the standard.

Still, we have a long way to go. While the situation at present is a much better one than that of 100 years ago, workplace injuries are still commonplace. Women still get paid less for doing the same job. And while productivity has increased dramatically over the past thirty years, real wages have remained stagnant. The purpose of a union is to strengthen the bargaining power of workers, and to reduce and eventually eliminate these and other similar problems.

Combining unions with punk rock.

Born on the dusty fields of Warped Tour in Barrie, Unionrocks is an organization that is taking the energy of the mosh pits to the labour movement. Inspired by bands like Anti Flag, Rise Against, NOFX, and the energy of the Warped Crowds, it has for six years brought the campaigns, messages and struggles of the labour movement to concert goers, encouraging them to take the inspiration they find at these shows and to take the call for social justice, better democracy and equality to their friends, their schools, the malls and the streets.

Brad Drake, an organizer for the group, is convinced that we can bring about the change that is needed in our society, starting with supporting and strengthening the labour movement. “Unionrocks stands for dignity for all workers, real social justice, a better democracy, equality, and a sustainable future for us all, reminding all that is labour that has stood at the front of these struggles for more than one hundred years.”

Anti-Flag supports Unionrocks and will be taking part in a meet and greet at the Unionrocks tent at the Toronto Warped Tour. “We are thrilled to be working with our inspiration Anti Flag this year to make Warped 2012 Toronto a very special event, combining the awesome energy and messages of Anti Flags latest release The General Strike, with dozens of activists bringing the loud message that Youth, unions, and musicians are standing up together against the growing corporate threat to our democracy, our economic well being and our society as a whole,” said Brad. Anti-Flag will be performing at the Vans Warped Tour this Sunday, July 15th, in Toronto, ON, at The Flats At Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. Check the bands twitter account (@anti_flag) day of show for the Meet and Greet time at the UnionRocks booth.

You can read more about Unionrocks here.