Saturday, July 12, 2014

CUPE Ontario has the right idea: Sex work regs ought to be about workers' rights

    CUPE is my new favourite union now that CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn has written a piece in the National Post saying the thing Canadians should be aiming for in laws and regulations around the adult, consensual sex industry is a safer workplace for sex workers.
    So true. The violence and vulnerability that Justice Minister Peter McKay keeps going on about as he tries to push through the flawed and dangerous Bill C-36 exists primarily because sex workers don't enjoy any of the standard workplace protections that the rest of the country's workers rely on. When you're a sex worker, there is no workers' compensation board, no contract law, no employment standards. You can't even go to the police with a complaint without wondering if you might end up getting charged yourself, and that will be doubly true if Bill C-36 is passed.
    Were the bill to become law, sex workers will have to be even more secretive in their work to protect their clients from being charged. The potential for danger will increase even more as they move deeper into the shadows. I don't know if McKay really is naive enough to believe that criminalizing the entire industry will wipe it out, but the rest of us surely know that's not true.
    CUPE has been the most progressive union in Canada for some time when it comes to viewing sex work as a workers' rights issue. Hats off to them for a brave stance, when so many other unions are still sitting back in silence.
    Unions could play a powerful role in shaping a safer future for Canada's tens of thousands of sex workers. They have lost their relevance on many fronts, but here's an area where they're really needed. I look forward to the day when the Canadian Labour Congress, the BC Federation of Labour and other union voices are joining CUPE Ontario in making the support of sex workers' rights and work safety a priority.

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