Infiltration, Intimidation & Union Democracy

I start this blog by saying that I don’t think that everyone in a union is a bad person.  But I do think that, like some religious institutions, unions are a vehicle for extremely partisan and morally corrupt people to impose their divisive views on society.  And these individuals are smart and organized.  They make bold statements about how democratic they are.  They talk about how they want to participate in a constructive way.  But they are, in fact, out to undermine the very values they claim to protect.  Don’t be fooled my friends.  Unionism is about power, profit and control.

The good news is that they are losing.  True democracy WILL win in the end.  They can’t possibly hold back the power of the people.  Just like the weight of the collective voiced broke down the socialist block in Europe, the truth continues to expose the dishonesty and corruption of the power players in the union movement.

Again, this blog isn’t about the individual people who work in a unionized environment – in so many cases these people don’t have a choice … or voice; it’s about the corruption of the institution itself.  And it’s about how the leaders hide behind “principles” to impose their views.

Yesterday at the #pcagm, I had the honor and privilege of witnessing union democracy at its finest.  I had spent the entire day at the AGM listening to open discussion, thought sharing, agreement and disagreement.  There were so many idea s shared by so many grassroots Albertans.  It was engaging, encouraging and exciting.  The positive energy was contagious and inspirational.

But the session about elevating employee rights by limiting union dues was a black eye of the conference.  It was an absolute disgrace to the conference and a disgrace to true democracy.  And it was a clear demonstration of how “union democracy” works.  There were a lot of witnesses in that room who spoke to me after the session who could not believe what had happened.  The lesson learned is that the PC party is open and democratic and sometimes people try to take advantage of our genuine nature.  That stops here!   If it’s the last thing I ever do, I will fight to keep my party – the PC party – truly democratic.

I am so proud to belong to an institution where democracy costs five dollars.  That’s what it takes to be a PC member.  Of course, attending conferences costs money and making political contributions is part of the process.  But the cost of belonging to the PC Party of Alberta is very low compared to the forced contribution individuals who work in unionized environments have to make towards supporting their corrupt bosses’ agendas.

I digress …. My previous blogs get into the details of the resolution … this is about “union democracy”

At the policy session yesterday, organized labour showed up to defeat the resolution.  I don’t have a problem with them paying and coming to vote against a policy they disagree with.   They showed up wearing their union lapel pins proudly displayed on their jackets and that’s ok too.  Most of them were only at the conference for a short time and they came only to vote against this resolution.  I don’t have a problem with that either.

What I do have a problem with is their dishonest undemocratic tactics.  I have a problem with unions deducting wages from their members to support the political agendas of the organizers.  And I have a problem with how they bruised the spirit of democracy that so vibrantly shined throughout the rest of the conference.

The pro-union pc “members” who showed up to defeat the resolution got into the room early – they got almost every seat in the room – they were able to get the seats because the other PC members were busy attending previous sessions.  The members who came to the entire conference had to stand in the back and along the sides of the room.  But they came in droves too!  Unfortunately, there were several other sessions happening concurrently so all party members couldn’t be there.  If this resolution was presented to the entire conference I am very confident it would have passed without much controversy.

So the room was very full and the energy was tense.  The discussion started and the room got loud.  By the time closing argument got started, the pro-union pc “members” were yelling “out of order” and “CLAC attack” so loudly that the speaker’s voice was completely silenced.  It got completely out of control and the session moderator didn’t do anything to stop it.  This is how the voices of dissent are silenced during union meetings – union democracy at its finest!  But they still claim to be one of the most democratic institutions in the world.

In fact, the moderator was one of them.  I’m not going to expose the moderator’s name because I don’t know him or his involvement in this.  I can take a guess and I will be discussing it with the Party.  But a person came up to me after the session to tell me he went to talk to the moderator to express his disappointment about how this resolution transpired and noticed he was wearing a union lapel pin!  Further investigation confirmed his union affiliation.

That’s the challenge of being a completely open and grassroots democratic party – sometimes you get infiltrated by people who have selfish and impure motivations.  You got to give it to union organizers …. They are organized!

The moderator called the last speaker out of order … I would love for him to explain why!  He called the question regarding the resolution and the vote took place.  I was sitting in the front of the room and was looking back and watching.  It looked to me like a close 50/50 split in the room so I called a division.  Several other people were calling for a division as well.  The pro-union PC members were yelling and making a mockery of the process.  I expected the moderator to count the votes – that’s how true democracy takes place and what took place at all of the other sessions.  The vote of every person needs to be counted and the voices of the speakers NEED to be heard.  It didn’t happen.  The moderator said the motion was defeated and that was the end of it.

The resolution was defeated and the pro-union members left the room – they didn’t care to be there for anything else.  I watched them walk straight out of the conference centre and leave the AGM.

I’m glad this happened.  I’m happy that so many #PCAGM members got to experience “union democracy” at its finest.  Especially in light of the real grassroots and organic experience they had during the rest of the conference.  It really showed me what it looks like when corrupt individuals abuse democracy to advance their interests.  It proved to me that my beliefs about “union democracy” are right!

That’s how I saw it and I really didn’t like it!

For another perspective read the Edmonton Journal Article: Provincial Tories … Pass Resolutions. Thoughts on this particular session start about a third of the way through the article.

I’m expecting a series of predictable responses to this blog from union bosses.  But I challenge these individuals to share this blog with ALL union members and let THEM respond.  But be transparent about it – don’t share selectively – share it with your entire membership and prove that you did so.  Let the true voices be heard.  That’s what the #PCAGM was about and that is what democracy is about.

Union members – share your “union democracy” stories with me – I will keep your identity hidden and let your true voice be heard! #PCAGM delegates who attended the session – let me know what you thought about it.

And please don’t get discouraged when we get several pro-union voices calling us out – they are highly organized and strategic and will make sure the voices of union bosses are heard.  They won’t share this will all individual members – I’m certain of it.  But have a long-term approach when it comes to advancing real democracy. Yesterday’s complete disregard for the process only got me started!


18 thoughts on “Infiltration, Intimidation & Union Democracy

  1. There is no good union. I like the way you have told the true story of a union and thier will to do no good, if it does not give them what they want! It does not stop there, it filters into all meetings, as in bring members to a meeting they rarely attend just to defeat a motion the real dedicated want.
    Means people/members don’t attend meeting regularly, just to defeat motions they don’t agree with.
    I see this more and more with the non profit I work with…it’s pathetic to say the least!

  2. Union leaders often hide behind the facade of union democracy to justify their actions. What I witnessed at the PC convention reaffirms the need for lessening the taxation powers of unions. Bullying type tactics that occurred at the convention happen too frequently in union halls and offices. This is why Alberta workers have shown little interest in having union representation in the work place. Some 80% of Canadians including a majority of union members do not believe unions should fund political parties yet millions of dollars are spent by unions in elections in attempts to discredit conservative parties even though many union members support parties other than the Liberals or NDP. It is time Canada joins other democracies in the world by protecting the choice of union workers to spend or not spend their hard earned dollars on activities unrelated to collective bargaining and grievance administration.
    Should not a persons decision to support a political party and provide funds be as sacred as their vote in an election.I guess not if you are a union worker in Canada!

  3. This article is critical of Unions, what happens if we replace the word “Union” with Political Party and the message is the same.
    Any organization which seeks to influence, wield power, and gain funds to do so has the same problems.
    Unions have done incredible amounts of good for people who generally don’t have power.
    People in Alberta don’t particularly like Unions because there is oodles of money. Just because there’s oodles of money in this province doesn’t mean that Companies wouldn’t try and squeeze more out of workers if they didn’t have collective bargaining. Unions have strength in numbers, as opposed to companies which have strength in finances

    What do political parties do that’s any different? Heckle during other people speeches? yup they do that, try and intimidate the other side? yup. actually one of the Campaign managers for Nenshi used the police for that one on me after they won (the police seemed particularly ticked off on that one). Try and use “dirty tactics” to influence outcomes? Yup(see “membership drives”) the list goes on.

    Any time you have a politics going on you are going to have some people disappointed at the outcome, you are going to have people ticked off that the other guy used a “dirty trick”, Unions aren’t the only ones who irk people, it just happens that they irk you more than political parties do.

    1. Fair comment Christopher.
      For me the main difference is we are debating forced union dues. I can choose to be a part of a political party – pay membership fees, donate money, etc.

      1. Unions only work when they have monopoly on membership, just like governments only work when they have monopoly on power. Their strength comes from their membership, once you undermine their ability to represent all workers you undermine their ability to do good for anyone.
        Once you undermine the governments ability to be the sole holder of legal violence you have a whole slew of problems. The monopoly on violence allows the government to benefit all as opposed to just one
        People generally are interested in primarily themselves in the short term, people take jobs without pension plans cause it pays more, even if it may be detrimental in the long term. Unions are there for the long term, they are there to ensure you don’t get fired, they are there to represent you when you get kicked while you are down.
        Unions aren’t there for the good times, but there to help you in the bad times. Alberta has gotten so used to it always being the “good” times that we forget that Bad times exist too, go to the Maritimes, go to Alberta before Oil, anywhere before labour laws. Unions protect those who are easy to pick off one by one, making them harder to defeat. When bad times come who helps with the mortgage payments? what happens when you don’t have enough in your pension because you took the higher pay option.
        Unions do good work, but only work when they have the ability to not get eroded from the bottom out

  4. Let me see if I’ve got this correct.

    You attended a meeting of the PC Association. The PC Association scheduled debate and vote on an important and divisive issue when they knew that a number of delegates would be unable to attend as there were several other sessions happening concurrently. The PC Association appointed a moderator who was biased. A number of members of the PC Association were loud and rude. Neither the moderator nor anyone from the leadership of the PC Association made any attempt to intervene and bring order. You believe that the results of the vote were not properly counted and did not reflect the feelings of the majority of delegates at the meeting.

    From this you have concluded that unions are evil and the PC Association is a bastion of democracy.


    Obviously I was not at the meeting and cannot comment on what happened. I often read your blog and follow you on twitter and although I do not always agree with your opinions, I have never seen anything remotely dishonest, so I have no reason to doubt your description of events. But what you saw was not “union democracy.” It was PC Association democracy.

    It is probably safe to assume that some of those who voted against the motion were members of unions. But no union was present. As someone pointed out in response to one of my previous replies – some union members not only vote PC but are active members.

    I don’t know the bylaws of the PCA to comment on the issue of a standing vote. Some organizations allow the chair to rule on the results unless a majority requests a standing vote. Others require a division whenever request by any member, still others use it as the primary manner of voting. Again, it is up to the PCA to determine that.

    As for the question of “forced dues” I dont really have anything new to ass, but simply encourage your readers to consider my responses to your earlier postings at

    From what I read, (perhaps other than this issue) it sounds like it was an exciting and productive meeting.

  5. As I watched the debate yesterday, I couldn’t help but remember the few union meetings I attended when I was a government employee. The few radicals that controlled the local made sure that anyone who held remotely conservative views was not welcome.

    Intimidation, disruption, bullying were all used to ensure that only the narrow views of the leadership and those supporting the leadership got there way..A tyranny of the majority who were forced to pay dues as a condition to being employed by the government.

    And that’s exactly what happened yesterday. It was deja-vu time all over again.

    Once again, many of the Ten-Minute Tories came from the ranks of unions affiliated with the Alberta Building Trades Council. Those with short memories may recall how during the PC leadership election, the Council reportedly bought 10,000 ($50,000) Ten-Minute-Tory memberships in support of Dr. Lyle Oberg’s bid to be leader.

    It is indeed true that some long time members of the PC are union members. I have enjoyed debating with them over the years and we respect each others views when we agree to disagree. But yesterday was another matter. The heads of at least two building trades unions: leaders that have openly written about the need to take the tories out; and, actively worked against the tories in previous elections including the Albertans for Change attack ads were there. And so were their Ten-Minute-Tories who happily left once they had successfully subverted the democratic process.

    Yes, indeed we are an open party. I for one am glad that real Tories who attended the conference got a glimpse of how democracy is practiced by some trade unionists. Though the resolution was defeated the antics that went on only served to underscore why employees should be free to opt in or opt of being associated with such activities.

    1. Are you telling me that there is no-one in the PC party who disagrees with the leadership? Cause if we’re going on an anecdotal evidence requirement I actually know more than a few people who’ve felt bullied by PC leadership but are members of the party (I know even more who fled to form the WAP)
      Union leaders campaigning against a party who generally stands against the things they stand for? shocking really, well not actually. The shocking thing is that you seem to think thats not ok for them to take a stand against things that would actively harm their organization and general membership

      Dissent is fine and essential part of the process, just because you disagree with their point doesn’t mean it’s wrong
      just make sure that you open your blinders up to see faults around those you support as well.

  6. Thanks for reiterating my point about choice. Members of political parties are free to come and go.

    This freedom does not exist in unionized workplaces where all employees are forced to pay full union dues. They might not always be forced to join a union but they are still required to pay full dues.

    The resolution did not say unions would be prevented from engaging in political activities. Far from it. It merely said that employees should have a choice in financially contributing to those activities beyond collective bargaining and grievance administrion i.e. activities that are political by nature. The concept is qute simple..those that want to finance the NDP, Friends of Medicare etc. through their dues can. Those that don’t wish to contribute to these left wing organizations aren’t compelled to.

    1. Should I be allowed to direct where my tax money goes? I don’t want to pay for killing Afghans, or destroying their crops. I also do not want to pay for cops.
      Should I be allowed to do that?

  7. No.. Unions are not the same, nor should they be allowed to have the same powers as government. Not when it comes to them spending my money on political activities and my right as an employee to disassociate with those views.

    1. Bill, no one is saying that unions should have the same powers of government.
      Unions are obligated to represent all members of the bargaining unit and to provide fair representation to all. It is only reasonable that all members of the bargaining unit pay dues.
      If I become a shareholder of a company, I don’t get individual choice if they wish to donate money. I have no right to disassociate with those views. It is odd that you are not seeking the right for shareholders to receive rebates on political activity.
      Further, I suggest that thinking that political activities and power are not related to collective bargaining is naive.

  8. David: I think if you read the resolution you would see that it provides for payment of dues to support collective bargaining and fair representation. Where we agree to disagree is on the next part.

    A previous writer queried about being able to withhold taxes. I think Peter covered that off before.. unions are not governments. As for your shareholder analogy which I believe was covered off before by Peter as well..I am not compelled to invest in a company. If I become uhnappy with that company I can withdraw my investment. I am voluntarily putting up my risk capital in the hopes of obtaining a financial gain.

    This is not the same when I work in a unionized workforce and I am compelled to make full dues payments – a portion of which will go to collective bargaining and grievance administration..etc.

    It’s the other part that’s at issue here. While I may be compelled to appoint the union as my bargaining agent for what goes on in my workplace, I would reject the notion that I am at the same time appointing the union as my agent to represent me on political and social issues.

    On this we may agree to disagree. Under the proposed resolution those who shared your view they would be free to contribute. Those in disagreement would be free to opt out.

    As to your final point, I suppose you could argue that everthing has to do with collective bargaining. When I worked in a government economic development department I was constantly reminded that just about everything was economic development – especially when grant and loan money was involved.

    This is about allowing individuals to set their own boundaries when it comes to political engagement. When Sid Ryan rails against Israel, or a union in BC decides it is going to campaign against holding the Olympics, there are boundaries being crossed and workers whose boundaries have been crossed should not be compelled to finance these activities.

  9. No one is compelled to work for a closed shop workplace, if it matter so much that the union is trying to lobby for the collective good(insert metaphor about rising tides and boats) you are not compelled to work for them, there are other jobs out there with no unions.
    I hear Wal-Mart is hiring, no union there, I’m sure their benefits package is great, so is their pay, wait, you mean to tell me that their benefits suck? they use deceptive tactics to cut people out of benefit packages? and their pay isn’t actually all that good.
    Should I be compelled to subsidize companies which are undoubtedly taking a massive toll on the health of the environment, their neighbours and our international image because the majority of people here like it? If I don’t like it so much I can leave the province.

  10. Anyone who has been a member of a Building Trade Union and attended a union meeting would not have found anything out-of-the-ordinary at the policy resolution meeting at the Conservative convention. The attempt to shout down the speaker, the room packed with place-holders, a biased chairperson – all pretty standard stuff. In fact it was a rather mild version of what goes on at union halls regularly. No one was obviously drunk, there was no sargeant-at-arms required to throw out participants deemed unnacceptable and the manipulation of the rules of order was far less egregioius than is the norm. There are good reasons that “union democracy” and “union politics” are labelled as special subsets.

  11. Back to Christopher’s comments on Wal-Mart. It’s easy to find a company that may not offer the greatest benefits to their employee’s and pick on them. But there are thousands of other companies out there that are not unionized and offer their employees amazing benefits and fair compensation without a unions “help”. I would be curious to find out how many of the top 100 best companies to work for are unionized? If you have competent, honest, fair management then you don’t need unions and you surely shouldn’t be forced to pay into something that you as an employee do not want.

    Whatever happened to a Canadians freedom of choice? Where is the union now for the thousands of oil field workers that are laid off because there is no work? Everybody from Iron Workers, Welders, Purchasers, Engineers, etc? Did the union insure they wouldn’t get laid off? No, they just said “well economy is tough and there is no work right now, hold tight something will come up soon”. Wow I sure would be glad I paid into a union for years for them to do nothing when the work runs out. Where are they now when those people need them most? I know where the welders, iron workers, purchasers, etc are. They are stocking the shelves at Wal-Mart and Home Depot and doing whatever they have to do to make ends meet to insure their family can eat! Good thing Wal-Mart still had a few openings.

  12. I have been a building trades “Union” member for 24 years.
    I have never read such ill-informed right wing garbage in my life. This blog sounds just like Fox – Glenn Beck! Building trades union workers stick toether to provide equal oppertunity and dignity for all members. We have democratic meetings and elections – CLAC and Merit do not!
    The pc party was trying to get rid of my democratic right to organize and we democratically attended your meeting and righty defeated this motion.
    I just want a level playing field to compete. Stop your garbage of forced membership. I pay dues because together we are strong divided we are weak. Just what are you afraid of?
    When I go up north away from my kids, wife, family, life I would like to be compansated to make up for this suffering.
    I believe your secret agende is to bring in right to work . That would bring an end to all organizing and maximize big business profits. All workers will suffer but rich investors will laugh all the way to the bank.

    So you want to screw the working class?

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