CAW Cements Support for Rand Formula, Union Awareness Campaign

April 6, 2013, 3:00 PM EST

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The right for unions to exist was a hard won victory, one that could come under threat in the months and years to come in several jurisdictions across the country.

In an April 6 presentation to Council, CAW Economist Jim Stanford recounted the historic Ford Windsor strike of 1945, which lasted for 99 days. The courageous strike was conducted by UAW Local 200 members who were trying to secure union recognition in the workplace.

The strike was ended by an arbitrated settlement in 1946 by Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand, whose ruling was a compromise solution to secure union recognition and labour peace. The ruling set out that workers would not be forced to join the union, but anyone who was covered by a collective agreement must pay union dues.  Accordingly, the ruling also set out the limited periods when strikes can occur - securing labour peace within the term of a collective agreement.

Stanford explained how union security provisions in Canada law are based on a majoritarian system, wherein a majority of workers must approve unionization, before the bargaining unit can be certified.

Stanford outlined that paying union dues is an economic investment in a worker's future. In Canada, on average there is a $5 difference between a union member and a non-union member's wage. 

No greater example can be found to contrast the Canadian experience than the southern U.S. where 'work for less' laws have been passed, which outlaw the negotiation of union dues check-off.  These laws now exist in 24 states, including neighbouring Michigan.

According to Stanford:
. The unionization rate is 6.5 per cent in work-for-less states, compared to 14.3 percent otherwise - more than double;
. The average weekly wage in work-for-less states is $760, compared to $925 - 22 per cent higher;
. Similarly workplace fatalities are also much lower in states without anti-union laws - 3.7 per cent vs. 5.2 per cent - 30 per cent lower.

Stanford warned that work-for-less laws are part of an agenda to push down wages and working conditions, similar to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the proliferation of unregulated temp agencies. And this agenda has already started to encroach on Canadian soil - through Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who campaigned on making union dues optional and later recanted; Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak already threatening to gut labour relations laws; and federal Conservative MPs have also been musing about introducing legislation to eliminate or drastically change the Rand Formula.

The CAW will soon be engaging in a membership campaign to talk about the fairness that unions bring and the benefits of unionization and dues check-off. 

With the Canadian Labour Congress, the CAW will be developing campaign materials to go out to all local unions, to be sent out over the coming weeks.

CAW Local 200 President Chris Taylor said that he's proud of his local union's history and echoed the importance of maintain the 1946 victory.

CAW Skilled Trades Co-ordinator Tony Leah connected the fight around union recognition to important strikes of the 1970s - the United Aircraft (now Pratt & Whitney in Quebec) 20-month strike of 1974-5 over French language recognition and the Fleck strike of 1978, where 150 women workers came under police attack on the picket line to win union recognition in the factory where they work.

"Trade unions are more relevant today than they've ever been," said CAW President Ken Lewenza. He said that in the 1960s during the growth of trade unions, that the disparity between worker and executive wages was nowhere near as gigantic as it is today.

Wonder about some good responses to why unions work for everyone? Check out this great Dues and Don'ts primer from the Canadian Labour Congress:  Together we've got better things to talk about


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