Unions are Democratic Organizations

December 16, 2015


In the Fraser Institute’s recent article Too much power for unions? Lammam and MacIntyre argue against the new federal government’s campaign promise to repeal Bills C-525 and C-377, both of which are damaging to workers and the unions they represent. These bills were introduced by the Harper government as part of its overall attack on labour rights and unions in general. 

Bill C-525 was designed to reduce unionization rates in Canada.  It does so by making it more difficult for employees in the federal sector to form a union (certification), and allows a minority of employees to dissolve a union (decertification).  The bill has been shown to be undemocratic in nature. For example, when voting whether or not to form a union in the workplace, employees who abstain from voting on the issue are automatically counted as casting a “no” vote.  The bill, in effect, skews the outcome of the vote and goes against the basic democratic principle which says - if you want to have a say, you must vote.  Similarly, when deciding whether to keep their union or to decertify, employees who refrain from voting are automatically counted as having voted in favour of decertification.  Does this sound like a level playing field?

In regard to Bill C-377, Lammam and MacIntyre suggest that forcing unions to publicly disclose key financial information, including any expense over $5,000, is necessary in making unions more accountable to their members. However, unions already disclose their financial information to their memberships. Unions are democratic bodies whose stewards, directors, boards, executive members and leaders are elected by their memberships. They are accountable to the members. 

So Bill C-377 is not really about transparency, it’s about bogging unions down in red tape, imposing unnecessary costs on them, and forcing them to publicly disclose their detailed finances on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website. The legislation has been criticized for being unconstitutional, for violating privacy, and for simply being unnecessary. Its detractors include the Canadian Bar Association, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, the federal Liberal and NDP parties, the NHL Players’ Association, and a host of constitutional law experts.  PEI UPSE supports the new federal Liberal Government in their commitment to repeal this unjust legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.
Karen Jackson,
President, PEI UPSE