Canada’s Building Trade Unions Support is Suspicious

Canada’s Building Trades Unions (BTU) came out publically the other day supporting the Government of Canada’s decision to allow the reversal of Enbridge Line 9 between Hamilton and Sarnia.  In their release, Director of Canadian Affairs, Robert Blakely, says that they work with energy producers on a daily basis to ensure that Canada’s energy projects “achieve all of their potential” and that “it’s refreshing to have a federal government that also grasps this economic reality.”  Blakley goes on to say that “with measures like an improved regulatory process, their commitment to apprenticeship and now this – the Harper Government is demonstrating its knowledge of, and commitment to, our industry.”

Taken at face value, such strong support of Prime Minister Harper’s Government and policies are no doubt helpful to the Prime Minister and to the energy industry as a whole.  Had the BTU sent this news release and focused only on the great nation building work of Prime Minister Harper, the BTU would have come across genuinely.

Instead they went on to express their concern about the “unintended, negative consequences of Bill C-377, which endangers the ability of Canadian workers to participate in large scale nation building energy and resource projects”

WHAT???  How??? Huh???

Bill C-377 is a federal Private Members Bill that would require unions to make public their finances, including assets, liabilities, expenses, and salaries of officials.  It’s a necessary piece of legislation in a world that is becoming increasingly open and transparent.

In his news release, Blakely goes as far as threatening that if Harper’s government moves forward with Bill C-377 it will “add considerable costs to the bottom line of large-scale energy projects” while at the same time stating the legislation would actually “duplicate processes that are already in place to provide accountability and transparency”.

If unions already have systems in place to provide accountability and transparency then they will be able to comply with Bill C-377 with little or no additional cost.  You can’t say on the one hand that you already provide full financial disclosure to members and on the other that it would cost you a fortune to provide public financial disclosure.  There is no logic to that argument.  It simply doesn’t make sense.  We know, for example, that when the US brought in union disclosure legislation the cost of compliance to unions was nominal.

Blakely also states that building trade unions are private sector unions and that “unlike charities and political parties, they (we) receive no public sector subsidies”.  The fact of the matter is, however, that unions enjoy special status under our tax laws and receive approximately $400 million worth of tax benefits every year.  Furthermore, union dues are mandatory which means that unions effectively have the ability to tax their members without any requirements to be transparent or accountable.

When Bill C-377 was first introduced, Blakely and friends complained that the Harper Government was unfairly targeting unions with this legislation.  Given that the government has required charities and first nations governments to be more transparent, these arguments have fallen on deaf ears.  Their new argument that they receive no public subsidies is also full of holes given their unique tax status and the mandatory nature of union dues collection.

Canada is far behind many other developed countries when it comes to both union financial disclosure and the ability of workers to opt out of all of some of their union dues.  Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S. all have some form of union financial disclosure.  Furthermore, in Canada MPs, Senators, Minister’s offices, provincial politicians and their staff, federal and provincial departments, First Nations Governments, charities and foundations, crown corporations and publically traded companies are all subject to some form of financial disclosure and transparency requirements.

So why are the building trade unions essentially threatening large scale industrial project cost escalation and an endangerment of the “ability of Canadian workers to participate in large-scale nation building energy and resource projects”?

What do big union bosses REALLY have to hide??

Until unions are subject to financial disclosure legislation, we will never really know.

What we do know is that the USA has had union financial disclosure legislation in place since 1959 and it has led to thousands of fraud convictions.  In fact, from 2001-2008, the US labor department secured more than 1,000 union fraud-related indictments and 929 convictions.

We also know that several unions provide funding and support to oil sands opponents, such as the Sierra Club (CAW, Nova Scotia Nurses Union), Environmental Defence (United Steelworkers), Parkland Institute (Canadian Union of Public Employees), the Rideau Institute (CUPE), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CUPE, CEP), the David Suzuki Foundation (B.C. Teacher’s Federation) and the Council of Canadians (CUPE, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Hospital Employees’ Union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Confederation of Canadian Unions, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, CAW, Pulp and Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, COPE, B.C. Teachers’ Federation, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).  But we often only know about this funding because the recipients, not the unions, report it.

Over the summer, one Federal MP told me that she has never been lobbied as much as she is being lobbied by organized labour against Bill C-377.  Clearly, organized labour has chosen union financial disclosure as their preverbal hill to die on.

One has to wonder why …

It’s great that the Building Trade Unions support Prime Minister Harper’s direction on energy development and its great they believe he is moving forward with great nation building policies.  I support Prime Minister Harper’s approach as well and so does the open shop construction community, which actually represents the vast majority of construction workers in Canada.

But to tie the issues of energy development and union financial disclosure together in the same media release is dishonest and, quite frankly, embarrassing.

Canadian unions should embrace financial disclosure requirements.  And they shouldn’t tie their support for energy development to the desire of Canadians to have greater union financial transparency.

Oh ya …. I forgot to mention that Canadians support Bill C-377 – in fact, more union members want increase union financial disclosure than non-members ….

But I thought that unions already disclosed all of their finances to their members?

Right … they really don’t.



Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code

The Alberta Labour Relations Code was written in 1988 and has remained virtually untouched since that time.  Over the coming months, I will be writing a new blog series titled “Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code” in an effort to initiate an online discussion about the need to update this antiquated (cold-war era) legislation.

Much has happened in the world since 1988, including significant labour legislation changes in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, as well as Europe, the USA and most developed countries throughout the world.  The time has come to update this 23 year old piece of legislation in Alberta.

The governments of British Columbia and Saskatchewan have responded with labour code changes that made their workforces more nimble, fair and competitive.  As a result, these provinces have created a labour relations environment that is more conducive to attracting investment to their provinces.

In response to these changing circumstances in western Canada and around the world, a group of construction leaders formed a coalition to find ways to combat Alberta’s increasingly uncompetitive construction sector.  The group is called the Construction Competitiveness Coalition and its participants operate in both union and non-union environments.  Most of their recommendations are based on labour code changes that have already taken place in other provinces and jurisdictions around the world.  I will write a detailed blog about each of the recommendations in the coming months.

The opportunities for Alberta to become more competitive through Labour Code amendments generally fall into three (3) categories:

  • Creating economic advantages though cost and schedule certainty;
  • Creating bargaining structures for today’s workplaces; and
  • Improving fairness for employees and employers.

The top ten reasons to amend the Alberta Labour Code are:

Recommendation 1:   Amend Division 8 to address potential issues under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Recommendation 2:   Adopt legislation similar to that in British Columbia, which allows for the continuation of collective agreements in situations where a union becomes the bargaining agent for a workforce and there is an existing collective agreement in place for that workforce.

Recommendation 3:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow contractors to complete existing work under the labour obligations that existed prior to certification.

Recommendation 4:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow for certificates in the construction industry that cover all of the employees working for an employer.

Recommendation 5:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to put into law a provision that allows for early renewal of collective agreements when all parties are in agreement and employees consent.

Recommendation 6:   Maintain the current approach to the “build up principle” in construction.

Recommendation 7:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from fining workers for the crime of working with an employer not affiliated with the union.

Recommendation 8:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from using union dues to support activities other than fulfilling the union’s obligations under the Code unless the union obtains prior consent of the employee.

Recommendation 9:   Improve Alberta Labour Code provisions that address market enhancement recovery fund (“MERFs”), which are illegal bid subsidy schemes.

Recommendation 10: Amend the Alberta Labour Code to clarify limits on the use of picket lines.

If you are still reading, you must be wondering what much of this means!  These are complicated but critically important matters.  Many of these policy recommendations have been implemented throughout the country and around the world and despite fierce opposition from union leadership, they have resulted in better, more competitive workplaces and happier workers.

I look forward to diving into each of these recommendations over the coming months and engaging in this important dialogue.


A Bold Tim Hudak is Ready to Take Ontario in a New Direction!

Ontario PC Party Leader, Tim Hudak, released his Party’s election platform last weekend and showed the people of Ontario just how serious the Ontario PCs are about becoming the new government in that province.  The document is bold and ambitious, which is consistent with this leader and exactly what Ontario needs to get turned around.

Cleverly called the “Changebook”, Hudak and his Party have set a clear direction through this document that will make many Ontario residents excited.  Its focus is on putting “more money in families’ pockets, guarantee services and cleaning up government – it’s progressive and it’s conservative.   It’s the stuff winning campaigns are made of!

Of particular interest to this blogger is the section of the Changebook about making “Ontario labour laws fairer for union members and taxpayers”.  I am impressed that Hudak included these policy statements in this document.  It shows the he is not afraid to stand up for what is right on the labour front – something most politicians in Canada have struggled with.

The policies in this section are substantial: “giving individuals the right to a secret ballot in certification votes; introducing paycheck protection so union members are not forced to pay fees towards political causes they don’t support; requiring unions to be transparent and open with their financial information just as businesses and charities are.”

These policies address the issue of workplace democracy and transparency and are critically needed in Canada.  They address the rights of individuals within the collective.  It’s a subtle and complicated topic, but it’s critically important for Canadians to discuss.

One policy in this area is about increased financial transparency for unions.  This is long overdue.  Transparency is becoming more important in all aspects of business, government, charities, etc. … and unions must be held to the same standards.

Some people will kick and scream about how these policies are an assault on unions and the rights of workers.  They will make emotional arguments about how Hudak is trying to screw over the working man when in fact these policies will do the opposite – they will give individual workers rights vis-à-vis their union – they will correct an imbalance that currently exists in ALL Canadian unionized workplaces.

These are important rights to have.  Think about the fact that workers in Ontario’s construction industry do NOT have the right to a secret ballot for union certification votes.  That in itself is appalling in a modern Canadian democracy.

Now think about the fact that construction workers had this right stripped from them immediately after Dalton McGuinty became the Premier of Ontario.  Why?  Because Mr. McGuinty won the election with the help of $5 million in attack ads paid for by the “Working Families Coalition”, which is an organization made up of Ontario unions – primarily building trade unions.

Think about it – the “Working Families Coalition”, made up primarily of Building Trade Unions spend $5 million on negative attack ads to help McGuinty win the election.  As soon as McGuinty wins, he strips construction workers the right to a secret ballot so that it’s easier for these unions to get organized.  More organization means more money in union coffers and more money for attack ads to help the Liberals.  These things were not done in the interest of the Ontario construction worker; they were done in the interest of the Ontario Liberals and union bosses.

The “Working Families Coalition” is at it again this election – according to estimates, they are planning to spent up to $10 million of mandatory union dues on this round of American style personal attack ads.

This could be the reason that Hudak took it a step further and is campaigning on paycheck protection – or the right for union workers to opt out of having to contribute financially towards political causes they don’t support.  This type of legislation is needed in every province in Canada.

This right to disassociate financially from the political view of one’s union is just as important as the right to be part of that union or the fundamental right to association, which is guaranteed by the Charter.

Individual union members do not all support the same political parties or causes.  In fact, many unionized construction workers in Ontario will likely support Hudak and his PC Party in the next election.  These workers MUST be given the right to opt-out of paying dues that go towards the Ontario Liberals or other causes they do not believe in.

Imagine how you would feel if someone took a mandatory deduction from your paycheck to contribute to a political party you do not support?  It would not be accepted in a non-union setting and should no longer be tolerated in a unionized environment.

By introducing these policy pieces as part of his comprehensive “Changebook”, Hudak is showing the people of Ontario that he truly is ready to be the bold and deliberate leader they so desperately need.  He is proving that he understands what helping Ontario families ACTUALLY means and that he is willing to stand up for THEIR individual rights.

This is the kind of leadership Ontario needs and the kind of leadership that is needed across the country.

Kudos to Tim Hudak for putting forward a bold and ambitious policy agenda and best of luck in the next election – real working families across Ontario need your help.


Moral Dilemma

The debate about union dues is a difficult one because participants are typically emotionally involved due to their deep seeded political beliefs about unionism.  As such, the discussion goes back and forth and often misses the point, while the question at the core of the issue gets tossed to the side.

I have much respect for Mr. David Harrigan for engaging me on this debate.  As a principled leader with the United Nurses of Alberta, he has a lot of knowledge about how his union works.  However, every point he makes in my mind misses the core point of the debate.

I share our last exchange because it illustrates this well.  Please read it and share your thoughts …


David Harrigan | November 3, 2010 at 6:50 AM | Reply | Edit

I agree, it has been an enlightening debate. I suspect that you and I will likely never agree on this one. But there are some things we do agree on.

I agree that unions must be democratic and must allow free, open and democratic votes about how money is to be spent.

Where we disagree is I believe that majoritarianism must hold the day, and the will of the majority rule.

This is the way things work in every organization that Albertans belong to, be it their local soccer association, their government, their services organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, their workplace social fund, any club. The Merit Contractors Association doesn’t give a rebate to its members if one of them disagrees with a particular stance.

I believe that the suggestion that unions, and unions alone, should be forced to do so is illogical and wrong.

I think you may be correct as well on the issue of absolute individual choice, and it essentially boils down to a libertarian vrs majoritarianism view.

Also, like you, I tend to get offended when any group starts trying to use the word “family” as exclusively applying to their values. I noticed in the US the protestant religious right began doing this years ago. Having grown up in a close, Roman Catholic, liberal family, very little of their views were shared by me.

As you say, a most interesting debate!

pcinyyc | November 3, 2010 at 11:08 AM | Reply | Edit

David – polling suggests that the majority of Canadians AND union workers agree with my point of view. Why don’t you have a free, open and democratic vote (secret ballot) of your members on this topic and go with the voice of the majority?

The question can be simple:

“Do you agree or disagree with your union forcing deductions directly from your salary to pay for partisan political activity”?


“Do you agree that you should have a right to opt-out of the portion of your union dues that goes towards partisan political activity”?

Chambers of Commerce, Associations and other groups put questions to their members and go with the will of the Majority. However, none of these organizations take forced deductions from people’s salaries to pay for the activities that are voted on.

I think this is the area where you and I disagree most. You say that to pick on unions and unions alone is illogical and wrong. But unions are the only institutions that forcefully deduct wages to finance partisan political agendas.

Don’t you see a moral issue here?

Further, you say that unions should be open and democratic and must allow free votes on how money is spent. I agree with you – and if the majority of union members vote and agree that union money should be spent on political advocacy I totally support that. This isn’t about a union’s right to participate in the political process.

However, the next question (the first question, really) to union members needs to be “do you support financing these activities through wage deductions”.

This is the most important question here and the one question union leaders don’t want to ask. Without asking this question, the claim that unions are democratic institutions is something I can’t begin to entertain.

I respect that you will fight for your institution because you have strong beliefs in what it does. However, I will continue to fight for the rights of the individual worker because I have a moral problem with the premise behind HOW your institution finances its political activities.


Guest Blog by Brian Dell: Unions Flex Muscles (again)

The following blog was posted on by a guy named Brian Dell, whom I have never met.  As you can see, Brian is a like-minded blogger.  I would like to thank Brian for agreeing to be a guest blogger on PCinYYC.


Much of what I blog about is based on well research facts – Brian presents some of these facts in his blog.  Now that I have your attention, I hope that you enjoy the continued education …. PP


Brian’s blog starts here ….


Section 29 of the Alberta Labour Relations Code explicitly allows unions to demand collective agreements whereby “all the employees… are required to be members of a trade union.” Only employees who convince the Labour Relations Board that their “religious belief” prohibits them from being a union member are exempt from this coercion, in which case an employee could potentially get his or her union dues directed to a charity instead of the union.


When Edmonton McClung introduced its motion to bar unions from forcing Albertans to pay dues that are then used for political purposes, the constituency association noted that Alberta is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that denies individual employees the right to opt out of having to pay mandatory union dues that are then used for political messaging.


In early 2008, in the lead up to the March 3 provincial election, an outfit calling itself “Albertans for Change” but in fact run by union bosses ran a series of TV and radio attack ads paid for by forced union dues. When the Merit Contractors Association and the National Citizens’ Coalition called attention to the fact that this astroturf group was using mandatory dues for activities unrelated to the core union activities of collective bargaining and grievance administration, the Alberta Federation of Labour responded saying Merit Contractors and the NCC were “simply trying to further their union busting agenda” and cited a 1991 Supreme Court of Canada case, Lavigne v. OPSEU. However, Mr Lavigne was not a member of and not required to join a union, unlike the case in Alberta where union membership is often forced. Indeed, when the Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in the case to support the union position, the CCLA concluded that “Lavigne’s protection is in his right to join or not to join” a union. Remove that protection and the Lavigne case is distinguishable.


Alberta Union of Public Employees spokesman David Climenhaga trotted out the “but the courts say” argument on his personal blog after the Wildrose Alliance AGM earlier this year to contend that passing a particular “right to work” law would be “a pointless gesture.” The McClung members who proposed the motion here anticipated this sort of retort, however, by attaching a legal opinion solicited by Merit Contractors from a Calgary law firm.


I might add that, in specific response to blogger Ken Chapman’s claims that the facts cited by the motion’s supporters were “unsubstantiated” and in need of “proof,” the union practices at issue here are prohibited in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and the 47 countries of the Council of Europe. While far left Canadian judges like Claire L’Heureux-Dubé have held that freedom of association implies no freedom to not associate, Article 20(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly affirms that negative right: “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”


The European Council of Human Rights, perhaps the most famous of the Council of Europe’s bodies, ruled in 1981 by an 11 to 3 vote that a 1975 agreement between British Rail and three trade unions requiring union membership as a condition of employment violated Section 11 (freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights (to which all Council members are a party). The 2006 case Sørensen & Rasmussen v. Denmark made it clear that a “closed shop” is still in violation even if it were made clear to a prospective job applicant in advance that union membership would be a condition of employment. “[T]here is little support in the Contracting States for the maintenance of closed shop agreements,” the Court added. The 2007 decision Evaldsson et al v. Sweden prohibited the use of union dues from non-members for non-bargaining (ie political) purposes, with the Court disapprovingly noting that “they had to pay the fees against their will to an organization with a political agenda.”


Although it is currently the case that in the United States unions can spend a member’s dues on politics, members have the right to opt out, a right that is currently denied in Alberta. Unions are currently in a panic about Republican gains in elections tomorrow because of fears that the GOP will change the obscure opt out procedure to an opt in requirement for dues union leaders want to spend on politics.


At this weekend’s PC Alberta AGM, union supporters tried to shout down opponents. When the vote was taken, it appeared close enough that some called for a count, a contention supported by the Edmonton Journal which described the margin as “narrow”, but the moderator dismissed a count as unnecessary and the union supporters declared victory. According to CTV, “[d]ozens of people, apparently union members, bought party memberships specifically for that vote and defeated the motion much to the dismay of many long-time party members.” The number of “Ten Minute Tories” might well have been significantly higher. In 2006, the Journal reported that a coalition of unions “apparently plans to buy as many as 10,000 Tory memberships” to get their man into the premier’s chair. As it is, the current chair of the government caucus, Robin Campbell, is a former union boss. South of the border in New Jersey, the AFL-CIO spends a quarter million per year running a “candidate school” to get their (Manchurian) candidates elected, and with considerable success given that this union school “has groomed more than 160 current officeholders.”


I nonetheless take some comfort in the fact a few grassroots PC members came to the AGM prepared to get their battle on against this economic phenomenon known as a labour supply monopoly or, in popular parlance, a union.



At the Wildrose Alliance AGM during the summer, there was essentially no floor battle to speak of since the unions had, in effect, pulled off an inside job. After cordial meetings with Alberta unions during the months leading up to the AGM, floor-crossing MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth spent essentially all of their microphone time on the convention floor lobbying for closed shops and the killing of party planks like the one that protected “the democratic right to a secret ballot,” thus precluding the need for more transparently union-affiliated speakers to make the case. Party leader Danielle Smith, who had previously had her own tête à tête with AUPE’s boss (photo above at right), told media outside the convention room that the union coddling constituted a display of “sophistication.”


I relate the disturbing ties between the Wildrose caucus and union lobbyists in order to note that apparently every elected politician is either running scared from the unions or in their pocket. In the US, the Associated Builders and Contractors (a merit shop coalition) noted a study last year that found that union slush funds had contributed more than $1 billion to contract bidding schemes that increased the cost of construction projects for taxpayers. The equivalent slush funds in Alberta, known as MERFs or “Stab funds, were finally targeted by the Alberta government in 2008 by Bill 26, which also aimed to put a stop to the union practice of “salting” (having their people respond to hiring ads and then, after having been hired just in time to vote to unionize, walking off the job to leave the employer both short manpower and unionized). The schemes Bill 26 corrected were so outrageous the union bosses knew they could not organize popular protests against the bill, but provincial lawmakers were still so afraid of union muscle they passed the bill as the very last measure of the spring 2008 sitting and at 3:15 AM in the morning. Legislature personnel were furthermore so intimidated that security guards at the Leg were placed on high alert.


There are four major political parties in the province (five if you include the Alberta Party) and the leadership and/or caucus of none of them seems prepared to make an issue out of the fact that Alberta tolerates closed shops where Europeans do not, and that provincial legislation adds insult to injury by allowing unions to pile mandatory dues to be used for political lobbying on top of mandatory membership. The PC members who voted against the McClung proposal giving workers a right to opt out of having mandatory dues used to fund leftist causes are ultimately traitors when you consider the fact that in 2008 such money was used to fund a media assault on the PC Party, but “traitor” implies an allegiance that can be betrayed.


Albertans are entitled to a political alternative. The NDP accordingly has a good excuse for, say, not supporting the 29 Old Dutch employees whom the UFCW union and the Alberta Labour Relations Board say should be fired for refusing to pay union dues. For 38 years the UFCW and Old Dutch collective bargaining agreement provided for a voluntary dues check off. In the wake of a lengthy labour dispute, however, UFCW demanded that the dues be made mandatory.


Even though mandatory dues are virtually cost free to employers, Old Dutch did not agree. The obvious solution in the union’s view then became getting the government to step in and amend the Alberta Labour Code. This summer, the Stelmach government indicated that it would side against the 29 workers. Perhaps the Wildrose Alliance could have said something about this instead of going on about legal disputes in other provinces.


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!


Union Dues – it’s time for a Progressive Conservative approach – Part 2

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!