Labour Report: Loblaws continues to hurt Canadians; LGBTQ+ under attack in US; UN to investigate Iran government human rights abuses; Pierre Bourdieu and habitus

Photo by: Artin Bakhan

CANADA: LOBLAWS LETS GO OF 500 EMPLOYEES IN CALGARY

The supermarket chain Loblaws has laid off over 500 employees at a Calgary distribution centre. 

The workers at this distribution centre have been asking for better wages since their union’s last agreement when the chain expired in June. The 500 workers facing layoffs were asking for a wage that corresponds to the living wage in Calgary, which is $22 per hour. 

Grocery price gouging has been a huge part of the greedflation that Canadians have been facing for the last couple years. Loblaws specifically has seen a rise in net earnings that exceeds $100 million in comparison to their pre-pandemic net earnings. Like the McMaster teaching assistant/research assistant strike in Hamilton, workers are struggling to stay afloat with the rising cost of living on meagre wages and corporate high-ups stipulate a slight rise in wages in the bargaining process and when workers understandably reject such offers the corporation expresses their disappointment. 

Simon Black, associate professor in labour studies at Brock University has pointed out that just looking at this as a wage issue can be myopic. 

“They are bargaining about staffing levels, and how staffing levels affect stress levels … and how it affects work life balance,” said Black in the Penticton Herald

Loblaws has also been an aggressive player in corporate merging and the privatization of healthcare in Canada, having acquired Lifemark Health Group to extend Shoppers Drug Mart’s range of services over outpatient health services. 

As health services are consolidated in mega corporations and workers are being ripped off in wage burglary, it’s time for policymakers to start breaking up big corporations like Loblaws who have shown they don’t care about their workers. 

U.S.: LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY IS UNDER ATTACK BY THE RIGHT

*Trigger Warning: This section discusses death and gun violence*

A shooter took five lives in a Colorado LGBTQ+ bar and injured many others last week. 

Right-wing YouTube commentator Tim Pool tweeted the following about the shooting at Club Q:

“it seems that around 10pm Club Q posted they were having an all ages drag show the next day. About 2 hours later the shooter came in. People keep calling for woodchippers and this is what happens”

The insinuation made by Pool is that drag shows are sexualizing children and parents won’t tolerate that so shootings like Colorado are bound to happen. This has been a common right wing argument against transgenderism in general. 

In reality, many of these drag shows are quite playful and involve activities such as dancing and reading-time. It is also a form of identity education that introduces children to the idea that people use physical markers to express large parts of their identity. 

The obsessive fixation and narrative that these events are a ploy to sexualize children is what’s driving people to such extremes. 

Right-wing pundit Matt Walsh explains in a YouTube video addressing the shooting that, “if the effort to have men crossdress in front of children is putting lives at risk, why are you still doing it?… Drag is inherently sexual and ideological and it is burlesque, and it is not appropriate to take your child to a burlesque show; you disgusting freaks!”

Walsh says the quiet(ish) part of Pool’s tweet out loud. If drag is inherently ideological, then the drag shows themselves are to blame for the violence displayed at Club Q.

The right’s attack on drag and by proxy transgenderism is an attack on labour in more than one way. Historically it’s been the case that transgender people have felt discriminated at work. Transgender folks also face high levels of homelessness and housing discrimination

The tragic Club Q shooting and the right’s politicizing it in service of claiming the left is sexualizing children by being more open to transgender cultural expressions is dangerous to the expression and safety of lives everywhere. 

INTERNATIONAL: UN TO INVESTIGATE GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON IRAN PROTESTERS

Iran’s soccer team made headlines when they stood silent as their national anthem played at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. In a brave move that could come with serious repercussions. The show of solidarity by the men was symbolic in supporting the strugglesome movement for women’s rights in their home country.

Iran is one of the remaining theocracies in the world, and with the murder of Mahsa Amini by state officials in September, protests have broken out across the country for the last three months. 

On Thursday, the UN voted in favour of probing allegations of human rights violations by the Iranian government. Officials called on Iran’s government to release those who protested peacefully and to extend a moratorium on the death penalty. 

An estimated 300 people have been killed, some children included in that figure, with roughly 14,000 protesters having been arrested as well. 

THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS: PIERRE BOURDIEU’S HABITUS 

French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu placed the notion of habitus as the keystone of his theory of sociology, though the term comes from antiquity seeing use in the likes of Aristotle and much later by the “father of ethnology” Marcel Mauss. The term also looms in the work of some key thinkers of the post-World War II era in France. 

Habitus is the way social agents’ socially-endowed habits and abilities affect the way they perceive and subsequently act in the social world around them. Bourdieu saw someone’s habitus encompassing both the body, in the form of hexis — the disposition of the body in terms of posture and accent — and the mind in the form of cognition, aesthetic appreciation, available means, strategies and tolerance for apperception and so on. 

Habitus goes beneath conscious ideology; it is the unconscious habits of an ideology. An analogy could be made to the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung who theorized about society’s having a collective unconscious. Though Jung’s monism had him posit that the collective unconscious was governed by archetypes that were historical constants and emerged in different manifestations across cultures in space and time making him squarely a mystic. 

Bourdieu’s habitus is more beholden to class structures, specific geographies and ethnological distinction. 

A good example of habitus that captures the hexis, specifically posture and accent, comes from the lawyer drama TV series Better Call Saul. The protagonist Jimmy and his partner Kim are both lawyers, Kim having a more “by-the-books” approach. 

In a scene in the fifth season, Kim is imitating her main client, a man named Kevin, a CEO of a massive bank in the South West who wants to get construction started on a new bank and call center quicker than possible and in a rather immoral way by evicting an elderly man. Kim uses the impression to let out steam to Jimmy because she even finds this land grab to be brutal. 

She starts the impression by turning to the side and Jimmy has to point it out, “He’s a sidesitter… You never told me that he is a sidesitter, and that is gold.” 

Kevin is belligerent, stuck up and speaks with an authoritative timbre. The point of the impression is to show how when Kevin talks shop with Kim or any other business consultant he turns sideways to differentiate himself from the alert upright dispositions expected of most high-class legal and commercial meetings. 

Kevin later admits he was taught by his father to be a fighter, that he doesn’t take “no” for an answer and that he gets things done. All of this figures into his specific habitus and it’s no wonder he doesn’t listen to the good faith, evenhanded counsel of his attorneys. 

Habitus is an important concept to understand when gauging the ways in which social antagonisms are fabricated into unconscious postures and approaches to the world that appear to function for a necessary objective social function but, in Bourdieu’s words in The Logic of Practice, form “principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them.” 

In other words, habitus forms a kind of automatic process of conscious social cause and effect. The move to eliminate a socially destructive habitus which stems from, say, economic structures of hierarchy would be to symbolize it, whenever possible. 

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