Anyone who has been keeping tabs on recent developments in what can accurately be called the assault on trade unions and working people in the U.S., Britain, Ireland, and much of continental Europe, knew that it would eventually come to Canada.

This attack on labour is largely a result of the growing income inequality in our society - there has been a marked trend whereby the wealthy have been getting more wealthy and workers have not. This video, released in October 2012 by the National Union of Public and General Employees explains the growing income inequality in Canada.

The attack on unions in the US began under Ronald Regan and has continued at a breakneck speed in recent years under Republican Governors who push a 'right-to-work' agenda.

A "right-to-work" law is a statute in the United States that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers, that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees' membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. "Right-to-work" laws do not, as the short phrase might suggest, aim to provide a general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers[1] or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract all the employees work under.

Many have pointed out that the phrase right-to-work is a misnomer. Statistics indicate that the so-called right-to-work states have:

Lower Wages and Incomes
  • The average worker in states with "right to work" laws makes $1,540 a year less when all other factors are removed than workers in other states.[2]
  • Median household income in states with these laws is $6,437 less than in other states ($46,402 vs. $52,839).[3]
  • In states with "right to work" laws, 26.7 percent of jobs are in low-wage occupations, compared with 19.5 percent of jobs in other states.[4]
Less Job-Based Health Insurance Coverage
  • People in states with "right to work" laws are more likely to be uninsured (16.8 percent, compared with 13.1 percent overall; among children, it’s 10.8 percent vs. 7.5 percent).
  • They’re less likely to have job-based health insurance than people in other states (56.2 percent, compared with 60.1 percent).
  • Only 50.7 percent of employers in states with these laws offer insurance coverage to their employees, compared with 55.2 percent in other states. That difference is even more significant among small employers (with fewer than 50 workers)—only 34.4 percent of them offer workers health insurance, compared with 41.7 percent of small employers in other states.[5]
Higher Poverty and Infant Mortality Rates
  • Poverty rates are higher in states with "right to work" laws (15.3 percent overall and 21.5 percent for children), compared with poverty rates of 13.1 percent overall and 18.1 percent for children in states without these laws.[6]
  • The infant mortality rate is 15 percent higher in states with these laws.[7]
Less Investment in Education
  • States with "right to work" laws spend $3,392 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states, and students are less likely to be performing at their appropriate grade level in math and reading.[8]
Higher Rates of Death on the Job
  • The rate of workplace deaths is 36 percent higher in states with these laws, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.[9]

In Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak recently turned to prominent Republican lobbying firm Greener and Hook for direction. It's a fitting move, as the Progressive Conservatives' most significant policy proposal comes straight out of the U.S. Right's "empower-big-business-and-attack-your-opponents" playbook.

Hudak has made it clear that if he wins the next provincial election he plans to make it illegal for employers and employees to agree to have union dues automatically deducted from every workers' paycheck and to remove the Rand formula. A Progressive Conservative policy paper released last summer says, "No clauses in any provincial legislation, regulation or collective agreement should require a worker to become a member of a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment."

On August 21, 2013 the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) released this excellent video designed to educate workers about the Rand formula and automatic dues submission and how the elimination of these two critical pieces of labour law would impact Ontario workers.

Apparently, attacking unions' financial security plays well among the wealthy set. At an event that raised $2.1 million for the Party last month Hudak declared: "We will modernize our labour laws so that no worker will be forced to join a union as a condition for taking a job."[10]
  1. ^ Baird, Charles W. "Right to work before and after 14 (b)." Journal of Labor Research 19.3 (1998): 471-493.
  2. ^ Economic Policy Institute; September 2011;
  3. ^ U.S. Census Bureau, Table H-8. Median Household Income by State. 2010
  4. ^ CFED, Asset and Opportunity Scorecard. 2012
  5. ^ Kaiser Family Foundation; 2013
  6. ^ Census Bureau, POV46: Poverty Status by State: 2010, related children under 18; Table 19. Percent of Persons in Poverty, by State: 2008, 2009 and 2010.
  7. ^ Kaiser Family Foundation; 2013
  8. ^ National Education Association, Rankings & Estimates–Rankings of the States 2011 and Estimates of School Statistics 2012, December 2011; CFED, Asset & Opportunity Scorecard.
  9. ^ AFL-CIO, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, April 2012.
  10. ^ Huffington Post, May 27, 2013