CAW economist responds to the growing attack on workers and their unions

July 3, 2012

CAW economist Jim Stanford published a strong response to the growing attack on workers and their unions, not just in the USA, but also now in Canada.

You can read the full article HERE, or read it’s main conclusion below ….

“It was inevitable this back-to-the-future trend in U.S. labour law would spill over into Canada. Three provincial political parties have already proposed U.S.-style right-to-work laws for Canada. Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance and the Saskatchewan Party led the way. Last week, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives jumped on the bandwagon, with leader Tim Hudak now endorsing right-to-work laws for that province.

For this agenda to be taken on by Conservatives in Canada’s industrial heartland is a remarkable (and, for unionists, worrisome) development. This is, after all, the party of Bill Davis, who actively promoted unions as a tool to reduce inequality and enhance the well-being of common folk. In contrast, Mr. Hudak’s policy paper blames labour laws (not corporate greed or flawed foreign investment rules) for the debacle in London, implicitly endorsing Caterpillar’s position that Canadians must cut their wages in half or face even more job losses.

Mr. Hudak’s paper rails against the “forced paycheque contributions” required under the famous Rand Formula. Invented by Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand in 1946, it’s a compromise between the need for stable labour relations and individual objections to union membership. An individual doesn’t have to join a union. But they can’t free ride on the unions’ services, either. If they object to joining the union that represents them, they must pay an equivalent amount (for example, to a charity). The law is democratic (remember, no union exists without majority bargaining unit support) and has stabilized workplace relations (which were far more volatile before Rand). But new-right conservatives, backed by some employers, now yearn for a world without unions altogether. And this is how they plan to achieve it.

But why stop with union dues? Exactly the same logic applies to every other “forced paycheque contribution,” such as payroll deductions and income taxes. Yes, those taxes are set by elected governments (just like unions only exist with majority support). But surely individuals should be allowed to “opt out” – even if they still enjoy the services taxes pay for. Let’s make every tax voluntary, and see what happens.

Of course, public services as we know them would collapse entirely. And that is exactly what Tim Hudak and his allies want to happen to unions.”