` Columbia Journal - Liberals Limit WOF
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Liberals Limit WOF to Push "Rent-a-Union" Funds

The BC Liberal regime is trying to suppress Western Canada's largest and most diversified, and labour-sponsored, venture capital fund in favour of funds that only carry a union endorsement, says the fund's executive officer.

David Levi, of the Working Opportunity Fund, says the provincial government's move to cap the allowed number of share purchases in the fund at $80 million this year is just a move to keep one of the largest democratically controlled capital pools in the country from working at its full potential.

The WOF is owned by cooperative of seven labour unions, and in its short ten year history has exploded into the most successful venture capital fund west of Ontario.

The $500 million fund is rated as one of the most secure investment havens, with guaranteed rates of return and an extra tax credit.

Unlike standard corporate capitalist controlled capital pools, the WOF has a social justice ethical screen on where it invests money, a strict auditing process and open above-board reporting that encourages shareholder scrutiny.

The government says it is capping the WOF in order to supposedly diversify investment to other what it considers labour sponsored venture capital funds.

Levi says there are only a handful of actual labour sponsored funds-funds that are controlled by democratically elected labour and shareholder representatives.

"There are also some rent-a-union funds out there, which in fact have no union input what-so-ever," Levi said. "These are usually where a small group of business people see an opportunity in marketing something new and different and simply approach a union and get them to agree to lend their name to the fund in return for funding an education program or something similar. But there are no ethical standards and the union has no representatives on its board and no say."

He says quite often these fake "rent-a-union" funds solicit the names of organizations that are likely not real unions-what are known in some labour circles as "rat unions." These are organizations that pose as union, but are not controlled by their members and have no formal democratic voting systems, regular meetings or elections.

The two other funds that the government is considering for recognition are "rent-a-union" funds, Levi said.

Levi says it's likely the Liberals want to ensure that control over investment and business remains exclusively in the hands of the corporate capitalist elite and, therefore is opposed to any democratization of the economy, especially by the labour movement.

Labour sponsored venture capital funds were started in the 1980s with the Solidarity Fund in Quebec in order to provide investment capital to cash starved small business and new economic sectors, as banks and major capitalist agencies refused to fund these sectors. Union members began to purchase shares in these funds.

Levi says they also arose out of a growing desire of union workers to get more of a say the economic destiny of both themselves and their communities, especially during recessions.

The Quebec government, realizing the service this fund was providing for the ailing small business economy, offered a partial tax break for investing in the fund. In addition, Solidarity qualified to offer RRSP purchases.

With the support of tens of thousands of union members and administered via the Desjardais Credit Union Network, the Solidarity Fund has grown into a multi-billion dollar venture, controlled by elected worker representatives.

Similar plans were set up in the 1990s between labour unions, socially responsible investors and the NDP governments in Manitoba and BC.




The Columbia Journal
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Web: www.columbiajournal.ca
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