Published in the Windsor Star on January 19th, 2013
Rationality flies out the window when it comes to discussing labour policy with labour leaders. Since the PC Party and I launched our 'Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets' white paper, union leaders have said our proposal to make union membership optional would make collective bargaining illegal, toss out the Rand Formula and lead to other evil deeds.
They claim that our proposals would attack workers' rights. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Currently, labour law in Ontario lets unions deny workers their Charter right to freedom of association and allows them to coerce people into being members.
The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly struck down mandatory unionization laws in Europe as being an affront to the human right of freedom of association, making laws like we have in Ontario unconstitutional in 47 countries. It's ironic that union leaders claim our proposal would attack human rights when they are the ones violating them in Ontario today.
More astute union leaders have alleged that our proposal would be unconstitutional and would somehow overturn the Rand Formula. That's not what the Rand Formula is.
It is not a part of the Constitution, doesn't give workers or unions any rights and is codified in law in only seven provinces. The Rand Formula was a decision handed down in 1946 by labour arbitrator Ivan Rand who was responsible for arbitrating the Ford Strike in Windsor the prior year.
A major issue in the strike was the large number of workers who had decided not to pay union dues, but who were still reaping the benefits of the UAW's collective bargaining agreements. The goal of Rand's decision, now known as the Rand Formula, was to end the practice of free riding by requiring that everyone who was part of a collective bargaining agreement would have to pay union dues. Rand decided "that mandatory dues will be used for collective bargaining purposes;" his decision didn't condone mandatory contributions to a union's social policy campaigns, election ads or political party of favour.
His decision was fair and sensible and our proposal stands by that decision. In the last session of the legislature, I tabled a bill which formed the basis of our proposal. The bill would have allowed workers to opt out of a bargaining unit, its union and its collective bargaining agreement altogether. Workers would then bargain directly with their employer like the other 70 per cent of Ontario workers already do; they would be entirely independent of the union and its bargaining agreement. The proposal would be consistent with the intent behind the Rand Formula and would not change the way free riders are handled.
And some union leaders are finally wising up to these facts. In a Windsor Star interview, Ken Lewenza, the president of the Canadian Auto Workers' union, admitted that a fight over our proposal probably wouldn't land in court. "The fight would have to be on the street," presumably because he understands they have no legal leg on which to stand.
It makes sense why union leaders like Mr. Lewenza are scared and prone to exaggeration.
Not everyone thinks their union represents them, and our proposal to make union membership a choice would undoubtedly lessen the amount of union dues they collect.
Union leaders might have to concentrate on representing their workforce better.