Thursday, 13 April 2017 - 9:00am

Imagine walking into work one day and learning that your workplace had been unionized and you were now a union member.

Going forward, you would now have no choice but to pay your union $700 or so each year in union dues. Further, instead of being able to negotiate your pay, schedule and other work details with your boss, a union would now control the process.

If you don’t like the prospect of your workplace unionizing without you and your colleagues having an opportunity to vote on the matter, then you may wish to contact your MLA. There are several indications that Rachel Notley and the NDP could be looking at removing your right to vote when it comes to someone trying to unionize your workplace.

And this isn’t a pie in the sky concept. Eliminating a worker’s right to a secret ballot vote (when it comes to unionizing their workplace) was one of the first things Manitoba’s former NDP government implemented back in 2000 (see Bill 44).

Here in Alberta, Rachel Notley’s NDP government is currently ‘consulting’ with Albertans on major changes to labour laws and unions are busy encouraging the government to eliminate the secret ballot vote.

Instead of letting you vote privately, several unions are calling for a ‘card check system’ to determine if a workplace unionizes or not. Such a system merely requires a union to collect signatures from a majority of employees and present them to the labour board. Such a process is built on the claim that all the employees who signed the cards truly support joining a union.

On the surface one might feel such a process seems valid, but in practice the results can be surprising.

Alberta government data shows there were 31 cases between 2009-2015 whereby support for joining a union dropped by 15 per cent or more once employees could vote on the matter privately. In one case, back in 2013, a union claimed to the labour board that 100 per cent of employees at a workplace supported joining the union. However, once the labour board conducted a vote with those workers, not a single employee voted in favour of unionizing.

Why would someone sign a card if they didn’t support joining a union? Consider this letter to the editor in the Winnipeg Free Press from April 2016.

David Deighton described how “two large union organizers” came by his house “late at night” to encourage him to sign a card in favour of joining a union. The letter writer went on to describe how the process was “intimidating” and that a secret ballot would take such intimidation out of the equation.

If you think about it, we don’t elect our politicians by having people sign cards in favour of certain candidates for a reason; namely, intimidation and corruption. In fact, even unions select their own presidents and officers through a secret ballot vote.

It should also be noted that even some unions concede that the “card check” system is problematic. For instance, the Labourer’s Industrial Union of North America notes on its website that unions will use “sneaky” tactics to “trick” people into signing cards.

Make no mistake; there are people who sincerely wish to join unions. But, if the government wants to know if a majority of employees support joining a union, they’ll continue to let people vote privately on the decision.


Colin Craig works for the Manning Centre and is the Author of The Government Wears Prada
This column was published in the Calgary Sun and Edmonton Sun on April 13, 2017

Colin Craig
Director of Strategic Communication

Colin Craig is the Director of Strategic Communications for the Manning Centre and is the author of The Government Wears Prada. He has an MBA and a BA (Economics) from the University of Manitoba. Prior to joining the Manning Centre, Colin worked for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in Winnipeg and was instrumental in shaping public policy decisions at the municipal, provincial and federal level.