Board's code of silence amplifies LabourWatch
By John Mortimer
Labour Relations Boards across Canada appear to be going out of their way to omit references to LabourWatch in their decisions. The silence is deafening and begs the question why are Boards referencing LabourWatch in their decisions only as a website without actually mentioning our name?
The latest example is a British Columbia Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) decision based on a UFCW certification drive at a Wal-Mart store in Dawson Creek, BC. The UFCW filed unfair labour practice complaints against Wal-Mart, some Wal-Mart employees and a lawyer, Michael Nolin from Saskatchewan.
After Nolins father, a Wal-Mart employee, expressed concerns about union organizing tactics, Nolin began acting for some Wal-Mart employees before the Saskatchewan Board. Last year he was contacted by a Dawson Creek employee to whom he subsequently wrote a letter.
In its May 30th decision, the BC Labour Relations Board reviewed the letter written by Michael Nolin that incorrectly explains BC labour law and makes a number of statements about the UFCW and about Wal-Mart. Nolins letter contained references to both www.labourwatch.com as well as Members for Democracy (MfD) - a union reform website run by current and former UFCW members. (Note: since the Nolin letter, the UFCW successfully forced MfD to change its website address from www.ufcw.net to www.uncharted.ca.)
In its decision, the Board quoted extensively from Nolins letter. The Board mentioned that Nolin urged employees to visit the two websites, without actually naming either LabourWatch or MfD. The Board also omitted any reference to the four LabourWatch FAQs attached to Nolins letter. The Board only acknowledged that Nolins letter was sent with some other documents.
The Boards full decision appears here on our website.
In addition to filing a complaint against Nolin, the Union also filed a complaint against some Wal-Mart employees who the UFCW alleged distributed the Nolin letter and attachments at a meeting in the home of a Wal-Mart employee. The meeting was attended by Union supporters and opponents who held a discussion on unionization.
Describing the meeting as relaxed, the Board dismissed the Unions complaint in finding that no employee acted in a coercive or intimidating fashion by distributing Nolins letter at this meeting. They also noted that the employees never distributed the letter at the Wal-Mart store.
The Board cleared Wal-Mart of any wrong-doing as well in rejecting the complaints filed by the UFCW.
However, the Board found that Nolin contravened the Labour Code as a result of statements made in the letter to the Wal-Mart employees. For example, Nolin made allegations about UFCW organizing tactics that he had not looked into. He also asserted to the employees that if they unionized their store might close.
The Board found some of Nolins statements to be coercive and intimidating. Nolin and his law firm were ordered to pay to have the decision mailed to the homes of all current Wal-Mart employees in the Dawson Creek store and for a subsequent UFCW mailing.
LabourWatch emerged from the Boards decision unscathed but also unannounced.
Why the silence around the words Canadian LabourWatch Association in Labour Board decisions? This is the third case in a row that a Labour Board has heard evidence and occasionally complaints against LabourWatch and in dismissing the union complaints the Board failed to acknowledge our name. The two other cases occurred in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan.
In 2005, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, in granting a Sobeys employees application to decertify, the Board didnt so much as mention LabourWatch in its written decision despite Union testimony and cross examination about how the applicant employee had originally learned about LabourWatch from management during the original organizing campaign. ( S.L.R.B.D. No. 9).
In Newfoundland (LRB No. 4766: 1/12/2004), the Board heard oral complaints and considered two sets of Union pleadings against an Employers use of our website. The Board again chose not to mention LabourWatch in a decision that cleared the Employer of all unfair labour practice complaints.
The trend to omit LabourWatch name in Board decisions has occurred since 2004. Prior to that time, four decisions referenced LabourWatch, two cases from the BCLRB and another two from the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board.
Considering the painstaking detail of evidence that Labour Boards often cite in their decisions, it is truly remarkable that three cases in a row referencing LabourWatch evidence did so mentioning of our name.
Ironically, it is the Boards recent code of silence surrounding LabourWatch that speaks louder than words and confirms our place in Canadas labour relations community, albeit with an apparent desire to not give us any profile whenever possible.
LabourWatch Media Update
The issue of PSAC fines and now PSACs conduct generally, continues to generate strong media interest. John Mortimers June 21st opinion column in the National Post dealt with PSAC ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal relative to PSACs own conduct towards the unionized employees it represents. A different June 1st opinion column in the Vancouver Sun looked at the potentially intimidating effect of union fines at the Ekati diamond mine strike came under fire by Kay Sinclair, Regional Executive Vice-President: British Columbia for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
In response to Mortimers column, Sinclair criticized LabourWatch, its Board Members and its supporters in a column posted for a couple of days on two PSAC websites a copy of which is posted on LabourWatch, here.
In a Northern News Services wire story, Mortimer is quoted questioning PSACs claims that court decisions uphold union fines.
The unfortunate theme of union intimidation is picked up in a May 20th National Post letter to the editor, where the author cites more examples of union bullying during a recent Hospital Employees Union vote on a proposed collective agreement. The letter was in response to Mortimers May 18th oped - "Protect all workers" - in the Financial Post.
About LabourWatch - Informed Employees, Informed Choices
LabourWatch advances employee rights in labour relations. We provide resources on unionization to help employees make informed choices. The Canadian LabourWatch Association is a federally-incorporated, non-profit founded in 2000. LabourWatch's membership includes law firms and industry associations across Canada that provide financial and voluntary professional support for the organization's activities. LabourWatch encourages employers, particularly, to use the website in consultation with a labour lawyer.