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Overview

Forced union dues funding fake partisan political front groups in Alberta and Ontario

Albertans for Change and Working Families Coalition

Without express permission from almost 200,000 unionized Albertans, union leaders in Alberta are claiming to be representatives of them wanting change in Alberta. Negative political attack ads were launched on TV and radio on January 14, 2008. Of course the ads do not even remotely hint at their union connections. Only a dedicated website discloses union connections but has the audacity to allow visitors to infer that almost 200,000 Albertan voices support one of the worst forms of political activity – negative attack ads.

Fortunately, two Member Associations of LabourWatch decided to stand up for unionized Albertans and call into question this abuse of forced union dues. On January 24, 2008 the Merit Contractors Association and the National Citizens Coalition ran newspaper ads across Alberta. The Campaign: "Union leaders are putting YOUR money where THEIR mouths are" drew attention to the critical issues arising from this abuse of union dues.

Many of these unionized Albertans are also "Members" of the unions that represent than at work, but our research into related collective agreements shows that these unionized employees are forced to be Members as a condition of employment while some are allowed to make a voluntary choice regarding actual union Membership.

All are forced to pay full union dues as a condition of employment.

In Ontario's 2007 and 2003 elections the 'Working Families Coalition' was a similar abuse of forced union dues.

LabourWatch condemns the Alberta, Ontario and all Canadian legislation that allows forced union Membership and full union dues as a condition of employment.

According to experts LabourWatch has consulted, in Council of Europe nations (47 in 2007), New Zealand, United States and Australia, the human rights of unionized employees are actually protected from forced union membership and forced full union dues. Canada appears to be the only nation with free collective bargaining and independent unions that still gives union leaders such coercive powers over unionized employees. In these nations no unionized employee can be forced to ever become a union Member to apply for a job or have to remain a union Member in order to keep their job. Forced membership collective agreements are illegal and no statute law (like in Saskatchewan) forces Membership in any of these nations. With Membership a guaranteed voluntary choice, unionized non-Members either pay no union dues or a reduced level of dues in comparison to actual union Members. None of the dues of unionized non-Members can be used for political or other non-bargaining purposes.

LabourWatch issued a Press Release and developed this dedicated web page after reading an Alberta Federation of Labour Press Release defending their actions and hiding behind the 1991 Supreme Court of Canada ruling known as Lavigne. This important ruling came about as a result of the efforts of the National Citizens Coalition to pursue the freedom of unionized Canadians from the non-bargaining use of their union dues.

Lavigne opened the door in Canada to the eventual 2001 Advance Cutting and Coring ruling. This case reached the high court as a result of the efforts of many Canadians across the country as well as Canadian Coalition of Open Shop Contracting Associations. Advance clearly established, by judicial activism, the creation of a freedom from forced association (freedom from forced union membership) as a part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 2 d) freedom of association provision. But the roots of freedom from forced association being read into the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms are in the 1991 Lavigne ruling.

The unionized employee in the Lavigne case worked under a voluntary Membership clause – not the forced Membership clauses at play in Alberta, Ontario and all labour code jurisdictions except the Federal Civil Service who are the only unionized Canadians who have always been protected from forced Membership collective agreements due to interpretations of the Public Service Labour Relations Act and Public Service Employment Act (and predecessor legislation). Lavigne is a complicated 4 judgment decision. Experts still debate the meaning of the various judgments. It appears that ultimately the majority combination of opinions had to rely on Section 1 of the Charter to justify the violation of Merv Lavigne's human rights. Clearly in Advance the Court used Section 1 to justify the violation of Quebec constructions workers Charter freedom from forced union Membership. Stunningly, the swing vote in the decision relied on the 1960's and 1970's violence undertaken by unions as the basis for saying the statutory scheme of forced union Membership was justifiable in a free and democratic society.

Both Lavigne and Advance looked to international law and the jurisprudence of other countries in finding a freedom from forced association. However, unlike the other countries who rejected using their proportionality provisions to uphold compelled Membership or dues for non-bargaining purposes, employee human rights prevailed. The development of employee human rights protections in some of these other nations has taken place since the 1991 and 2001 Supreme Court of Canada rulings. LabourWatch looks forward to a future case reaching the Canadian high court in the 21st century and these cases face a new set of facts in a changed international context.

See Related Press, for media coverage

See Related Law, for a copy of Canadian, European and US court rulings that advanced employee rights.

See Reference Materials, for links to the fake union front groups, etc.

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