Thank you very much for your comments on my original blog on union dues – I’m thrilled we can have this discussion and allow Albertans and Canadians to decide where they stand on this important public policy issue.
You ask whether shareholders should get rebates if they don’t support the political contributions made by the company they invest in. The difference between being a shareholder in a company and a worker who is legally compelled to pay union dues is that a shareholder can choose to take their money out of one company and invest into another. Union workers are compelled to pay these dues as a condition of their employment.
A shareholder has the opportunity to invest in any company and has the freedom to associate and support companies, organizations and causes that are in line with their political views. My argument is that workers should have the option to either opt in or out of activities not related to collective bargaining and other core union activities.
With respect to citizens being able to opt out of paying a portion of taxes if they don’t agree with the direction their government takes on an issue, I suggest you make the highly erroneous assumption that unions should be afforded the same institutional recognition as governments.
Governments are responsible for providing public goods and services such as defence, monetary policy etc to all citizens. We cannot renounce being a citizen and our citizenship obligations. The issue here is that as a condition of employment people are compelled to pay union dues, which is akin to a tax. Since a union should not have the same institutional recognition as a government, is appropriate for a union to “tax” its members to support these causes? If a portion of these dues are being used to support causes, issues and political parties that the individual does not support, that individual should have the right to voluntarily opt in or opt out. Unions are not governments – it’s very dangerous to make these types of parallels.
Your third argument is an interesting one given the actions of Albertans for Change during the last election and the Working Families Coalition in Ontario. No mention was made of labour law/collective bargaining in those ads. Rather, the advertising constituted an ideological attack against the Stelmach government. All employees that are forced to pay the portion of dues that support these ads are being compelled to associate with these ideological views. While the Charter provides a freedom to associate, the flip side of that right is the freedom to disassociate. Compelling employees to pay union dues to support such ideological attacks is therefore a violation of their right to disassociate.
I also got a few tweets on this blog and most people made the same arguments as above. However, one was different and I want to address it. @noleftandright tweeted “if union members want to control expenditures they should run for union office of whatever sorts and state their case”
My response is that if union bosses want the province to have labour legislation that is more closely aligned with their ideological views, they should run for MLA and state their case to the whole population. Why should a worker who just wants to make a living and provide for his or her family be compelled to contribute to these causes through mandatory pay deductions? If the worker is compelled to pay these dues as a condition of employment, why should it also be their responsibility to run for union office if they don’t like it? The government has the responsibility to ensure legislation protects employee rights. The employee should have the right to disassociate from their unions political view and current Canadian legislation doesn’t respect that right.
These are my arguments … I welcome yours!