As economy worsens, unions come under attack

Description: As unemployment rises and the economy stalls, the union movement is under attack from governments, businesses and even workers.

Source: The Montreal Gazette

Date: 10/20/2011

Link: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Unions+easy+target+weak+economy/5575308/story.html

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • This article says: “… if the government prevents unions from walking out to protest members’ wages, the entire economy suffers. The butcher and the baker and the automaker all shed customers as workers’ wages decline.” Do you agree?
  • Why or why not?
  • How has the union movement fared in past times of economic difficulty?
  • What is different today?
  • This article asks: “…if the jobs created don’t pay very well and the only institution we have to fight for living wages is handcuffed, then where does that leave us as a society struggling to recover from a recession and massive wage inequities?” What do you think?

Court finds B.C. ‘gag law’ unconstitutional

Description: The B.C. Appeal Court has agreed with a number of unions that a B.C. government attempt to restrict third-party election advertising is unconstitutional.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

Date: 10/20/2011

Link: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Union+hails+ruling/5578606/story.html

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • What did this law seek to do?
  • Why did the unions seek to overturn it?
  • What does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms say about limits on free speech?
  • Do you agree with the court’s decision?
  • What do you think will be the effects of this decision if it stands?

Air Canada claims bad faith bargaining

Description: Air Canada has complained to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board that the Canadian Union of Public Employees bargained in bad faith.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Date: 10/14/2011

Link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/air-canada-bypasses-contract-talks-launches-seat-sale/article2201969/

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • What did the government do to block a strike by Air Canada flight attendants?
  • What does your textbook say about bargaining in bad faith?
  • What arguments do you think the company would make to support a claim of bargaining in bad faith?
  • What arguments would the union make against such a claim by the company?
  • Given what you know about this dispute, do the union’s actions amount to bargaining in bad faith?
  • What is the role of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board?

Steelworkers, U.S. Steel settle in Hamilton

Description: Workers at the U.S. Steel plant in Hamilton have ratified a tentative agreement after an 11-month lockout.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator

Date: 10/16/2011

Link: http://www.thespec.com/news/business/article/610128–hamilton-s-1005-votes-yes-but-nobody-liked-it

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • Summarize the issues in this dispute.
  • How does this contract compare to earlier company offers?
  • Why do you think the union decided to accept the contract now?
  • What effect do you think an 11-month lockout would have on the company?
  • On union members?

Postal workers’ union ordered to pay $50,000 damages

Description: An arbitrator has ruled the Canadian Union of Postal Workers must pay $50,000 in damages for walkouts in 2008.

Source: Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog

Date: 10/11/2011

Link: http://www.yorku.ca/ddoorey/lawblog/?p=3953

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • Why was the union ordered to pay damages?
  • Why was the union, as opposed to just the workers involved, held to be liable?
  • How did the arbitrator settle on the figure of $50,000?
  • Dr. Doorey asks: “Is that a fair outcome?” What do you think?
  • Dr. Doorey also asks: “Here, the union officials were directly involved in organizing the strike.  Do you think the outcome would/should be different if union members engage in an unlawful strike without any direct involvement of union officials?” What do you think?

Air Canada flight attendants promise strike

Description: Air Canada flight attendants have rejected a tentative contract and have given strike notice. The federal government has promised back-to-work legislation.

Source: The Toronto Star.

Date: 10/11/2011

Link: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1067829–air-canada-flight-attendants-seem-poised-for-at-least-short-strike

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • What are the issues in this dispute?
  • Can you think of compromises on these issues that would leave both sides reasonably happy – or, at least, equally unhappy?
  • Do you think the threat of back-to-work legislation affected the attendants’ decision to reject the tentative agreement?
  • Why or why not?
  • After reviewing the related links above, outline the likely effects of back-to-work legislation on both sides.

Bill would force unions to make finances public

Description: A Conservative backbench MP’s private member’s bill would force unions to open their books.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Date: 10/02/2011

Link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/conservatives-set-to-table-bill-forcing-unions-to-open-books/article2188247/?from=sec368

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • Private members’ bills rarely become law. What reasons are there to think this bill might be different?
  • Usually, when the government wants to amend a law it introduces a government bill. Why might this case be different?
  • Consider the arguments in the Fraser Institute article and the union comments in the Windsor Star piece. Which do you feel are most convincing?
  • Which arguments do you feel are less convincing?
  • If you were an MP, would you vote for this bill? Why or why not?

Settlement keeps St. Lawrence Seaway open

Description: The St. Lawrence Seaway and members of the Canadian Auto Workers union have reached a tentative agreement.

Source: CTV.ca

Date: 10/03/2011

Link: http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20111003/st-lawrence-seaway-strike-canadian-auto-workers-111003/20111003/?hub=CalgaryHome

Related links:

Questions for discussion:

  • What were the main issues in this negotiation?
  • The tentative agreement was reached after the union served 72-hour strike notice. What effect do you think that notice might have had on the negotiations?
  • The settlement also comes after federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt hinted at back-to-work legislation. What effect do you think that might have had?
  • Do you think this settlement fits the pattern discussed in the earlier update on federal back-to-work legislation? (See above under “Related links.”)
  • What arguments can you think of for federal intervention in this case?
  • What arguments can you think of against federal intervention in this case?