Class Harmony and Social Reformism: The United Way as a Reformist Organization, Part One

This is the first of a two-part post. The first post will look at some of the limitations of the United Way (a charitable organization) as expressed on its website. The second post will look at some of the limitations of the United Way as expressed in one of its publications, Rebalancing the Opportunity Equation. The authors are Mihaela Dinca-Panaitescu, Laura McDonough, Dylan Simone, Ben Johnson, Stephanie Procyk, Michelynn Laflèch and Alan Walks. For the purposes of the two posts, I will refer to the publication as United Way’s publication.

According to The United Way website:

UWCs [United Way Centraide] in Canada focus on ensuring people move from a life of poverty, to one of possibility; that communities are built to sustain healthy people; and that kids can be all that they can be.  Together with many agencies and partners, we improve lives, locally.  As part of an international network, UWCC links with the United Way Worldwide to share best practices and build capacity in 44 member countries, investing over $5 Billion US per year.

The United Way is part of an extensive international organization.

In another part of the website, it further says:


United Way is a federated network of over 80 local United Way Centraide offices serving more than 5,000 communities across Canada, each registered as its own non-profit organization and governed by an independent volunteer-led local Board of Directors. Locally and nationally, our goal is the same – to create opportunities for a better life for everyone in our communities.

Who could object to creating “opportunities for a better life for everyone in our communities?”

There is nothing wrong in aiming to improve people’s lives. In fact, it is admirable. The problem is whether such aims are linked, directly or indirectly, with other aims that limit people’s improvement in their lives.

The United Way does just that–it limits people’s improvements in their lives by assuming explicitly and implicitly improvement must occur while leaving the general economic structure (the economy, if you like) intact. In other words, it assumes that social reform is not only possible but is in fact the only possibility.

This can be seen through its donors and through its publications. Let us take a look first at its donors.

At first sight, it would appear that the United Way/Centraide (in French) Canada would be more favourable to workers. On its “Our Partners” web page, it explicitly mentions, in a separate subsection, Labour:

United Way and the Canadian Labour Congress have been partners since 1988 – working together to strengthen communities across Canada. The partnership developed around a common interest: ensuring that workers and working families have the support they need to succeed.

Unions across Canada are longstanding and generous contributors to United Way campaigns, encouraging members to volunteer and give. But the partnership goes much deeper than just financial support. Labour representatives advocate for those in need in their communities. They serve on United Way boards and committees, and offer programs like cooperative housing, childcare and other services.

Each year, United Way partners with unions across the country to improve lives in local communities. In 2016, Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff endorsed the national partnership and our continued commitment to working together.

Of course, since the Canadian Labour Congress is essentially a reformist organization that fails to challenge the power of employers as a class (see  The Canadian Labour Congress’s Idealization of the Collective-Bargaining Process), its support of the United Way already indicates a possible limitation on the nature of the United Way (but that issue will be for a later post).

On the same web page, however, there is explicitly an indication that there is a limitation to reformist efforts:


United Way is honoured to work with Canada’s leading corporations, employers and labour organizations in communities across the country. Thanks to their remarkable generosity, and that of their employees and members, we are improving lives locally from coast to coast to coast.

Compromise is undoubtedly necessary even if you do not want to do so; asymmetrical power relations oblige workers and their representatives to make compromises with employers and their representatives all the time. However, making compromises and presenting those compromises as not compromises is often a trick of social reformists or social democrats.

By saying that “United Way is honored [my emphasis] to work with Canada’s leading corporations, employers….,” the United Way already has compromised to the point where it is legitimating the power of employers as a class.

On the same web page, there is a link to those organizations that have donated at least $10 million and $1+ million. The 2018 $10 million donors are:

  1. BMO [Bank of Montreal] Financial Group
  2. Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)
  3. CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)
  4. Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign
  5. Royal Bank of Canada
  6. ScotiaBank
  7. TD Bank Group.

The $1+ million donors forms a list of 80 organizations, some of which are labour unions–and of course many capitalist companies and government employers.

Ten of the twenty most profitable capitalist companies in Canada (see A Short List of the Largest Private Employers in Canada, According to Profit) are on the list of the the $10 million and $1+ million donors:

  1. BCE [Bell Canada Enterprises]
  2. BMO
  3. Canadian Natural Resources
  4. CIBC
  5. Manulife
  6. Power Financial [which appears to be a subsidiary of Power Corporation]
  7. Royal Bank of Canada
  8. ScotiaBank
  9. Sun Life
  10. TD Bank Group

In fact, there are 11 of the largest private employers who have donated at least $1 million to the United Way since the Great West Life Co. is a subsidiary of Power Corporation of Canada.

Given the nature of the donors, how is it an honour to receive such money from such employers and to “work with Canada’s leading corporations, employers….?” Is it an honour to have such corporations treat “their” workers as things to be used for the purpose of obtaining a profit (see The Money Circuit of Capital)? How is this an honour? How is it an honour for the Unite Way to receive money from such companies given that such companies exploit and oppress their workers (see for example  The Rate of Exploitation of Workers at Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), One of the Largest Private Employers in Toronto, The Rate of Exploitation of the Workers of the Bank of Montreal (BMO), One of the Largest Private Employers in Canada and The Rate of Exploitation of the Workers of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), One of the Largest Private Employers in Toronto and in Canada).

Not only do such employers use “their” workers as things for the purpose of obtaining as much profit as possible, they also dictate to workers on a daily basis (see, for example, Employers as Dictators, Part One). Such organizations take from workers, use them and then use a small portion of the money as a donation to “help” those in poverty (defined according to the level of income–itself a limited way of defining poverty)–people who are in poverty because of the economic structure in which we live.

How is this honourable?

There are other problems with the social-democratic rhetoric of the United Way’s website, but such problems will be addressed in the next post in this series in relation to one of its publications, as noted above: Rebalancing the Opportunity Equation.

A Short List of the Largest Private Employers in Canada, According to Profit

When belonging to a leftist organization called the Toronto Labour Committee (Ontario, Canada), I worked on, in a minor position, on some statistics related to financial campaign contributions for the Toronto elections. Not being satisfied with this, I proposed that we start trying to develop a class analysis of Toronto. I indicated, though, that I did not really know how to proceed in this. I sent this over the Toronto Labour Committee listserve, and the response was–silence.

The following attempts to fill in, however inadequately, that silence, but it is first addressed at the more macro level of Canada. If others can provide more detailed and sophisticated statistics and analysis (while still being comprehensible), I would much appreciate it.

I thought it would be useful to provide a list of some of the largest employers in Canada. The reason why I think such a list would be useful is that it provides at least a somewhat concrete picture of who really has power in society and the extent of that power. Since most social-reformist leftists ignore the power of employers and assume such power as a background which they can assume as constant, they then consider their reformist policies without calling into question such power.

I hope to expand this later. If readers have better statistics or statistics from other countries, feel free to comment. This should be a work in progress.

It is taken from the following: Largest Employers in Canada.

Obviously, there are different ways of considering what the largest employers are. At least four come to mind readily: according to profit, according to employment, according to total revenue (sales) and according to assets.

The following list of the 20 largest employers lists them according to (after-tax) profit for the year 2012. The profit is indicated in parentheses. The currency is Canadian.

Statistics relating profit to wages and salaries would be useful to obtain an approximate rate of exploitation (undoubtedly Marxian economists would find the procedure faulty, but if so, then they should provide their own correctives at a concrete level–unless they are only academics who are little concerned with bridging the gap between theory and the more empirical experiences of the working class).

1. The Royal Bank of Canada ($7 billion 442 million)
2. The Bank of Nova Scotia ($6 billion 466 million)
3. Toronto Dominion Bank ($6 billion 367 million)
4. The Bank of Montreal ($4 billion 115 million)
5. Imperial Oil ($3 billion 766 million)
6. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) ($3 billion 339 million)
7. Suncor Energy ($2  billion 783 million)
8. BCE ($2 billion 763 million)
9. Canadian National Railway ($2 billion 680 million)
10. Potash ($2 billion 79 million)
11.Thomson Reuters Corp. ($2 billion 70 million)
12. Husky Energy ($2 billion 22 million)
13. Great-West Life Co. ($1 billion 930 million)
14. Canadian Natural Resources ($1 billion 882 million)
15. First Quantum Minerals ($1 billion 772 million)
16. Goldcorp Inc. ($1 billion 749 million)
17. Manulife Financial ($1 billion 736 million)
18. Rogers Communications ($1 billion 730 million)
19. Sunlife Insurance ($1 billion 674 million)
20. Power Financial ($1 billion 626 million)

If you sum up the amount of profit for these 20 companies, you get $59 billion 991 million.

To get an idea of the meaning of this amount of profit, we can do several calculations:

  1. Divide this amount by the total population of Canada: 37, 177, 886 (estimated, March 10, 2019, but for calculating convenience let us say 40,000,000): That is $1500 extra per year more for every person in Canada.
  2. Divide this amount by the total employed in February 2019: 18 million 991 thousand workers (for convenience, 19 million): An extra $3157 per year for every employed worker.
  3. The redistribution of all profits according to the whole population or to those who are employed would probably not have a great impact on many individuals and families; of course, a more refined analysis, with incomes lower than the average being affected relatively more than others with incomes greater than the average.
  4. This can be seen if we divide this amount by the total unemployed in the last three months of 2018: 1 million 30 thousand (for convenience, 1 million): That is $59,991 per year more for every unemployed Canadian.
  5. If we combine #3 and #4, and divide by the sum of the two (unemployed, 1 million, + employed, 19 million, or 20 million in total): $3000 per year extra for every unemployed or employed worker. Again, as an average, the redistribution would not have a major impact if spread out equally among all employed and unemployed workers. Its impact would be all the greater the more the redistribution would be limited to those who are unemployed or to those with limited incomes. However, this does not mean that such redistribution of profits would merely involve propping up the level of income of unemployed and those with limited incomes. As I have argued in several other posts on the nature of socialism, a substantial portion of profits would be allocated to an investment fund that would be distributed nationally, regionally and locally to various communities. Some profits might be allocated initially to provide for those who are unable to work, but with the elimination of a market for workers and the abolition of a class of employers, workers would increasingly not need to resort to such supplementary funds.
  6. It should be remembered that the above statistics are limited only to the 20 largest private companies. There are many other companies with profits, and if all those profits were included in the calculation, the impact on total income would likely be much larger and more significant than it is here indicated.

The position of the social-reformist left, of course, is for some kind of redistribution of such profits–but not to the complete redistribution of such profits. For them, there is such a thing as “fair share of the profits” via changed tax policies.

For example, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) published a work by Toby Sanger entitled Fair Shares: How Banks, Brokers and the Financial Industry Can Pay Fairer Taxes (page 23) (The title itself shows confusion since something that is fairer need not be fair):

As other Canadians are paying for the costs of the financial crisis, Canada’s under-taxed financial industry should also be required to pay its fair share.

Again, at the provincial level, in Ontario on the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) website ( social-reformist political party linked to unions).

Protect middle class families by having the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share

At the federal level, the NDP, in its pamphlet POLICY OF THE New Democratic Party of Canada  EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 2018, page 3 reads:

Ensuring that large profitable corporations pay a fair share of taxes.

According to the money circuit of capital, though, there is no such thing as a fair share since it is inherently unfair to treat human beings as means for obtaining more money (see The Money Circuit of Capital).

What do you think of the profits of such companies? What is the source of such profits? What should be done with them? Should workers control them? Communities at various geographical levels?

Is there such a thing as a fair share under existing economic conditions of a class of employers controlling our selves.