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Workers' Rights Campaign Kicks-off

By: 
Pam Johnson

March 6, 2013

On March 2 in Toronto, over 700 hundred trade union activists from both private and public sector unions met to plan a sharp and focused challenge to the Harper/Hudak attack on trade union rights.
 
Organized by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the event is the kick-off of a campaign to build labour momentum before legislation that is similar to so-called right-to-work laws in the US is proposed here.
 
What the Tories are proposing is to scrap the Rand formula, a law that says every worker who benefits from union bargaining must be part of the union and pay dues.
 
Harper has officially dismissed the idea of introducing legislation attacking union rights, but a backbencher Conservative MP, Pierre Poilievre, will introduce a private member’s bill on the issue. This is the same backdoor approach the Tories use to attack abortion rights. They know they cannot raise these issues directly.
 
The move is near the top of the agenda for the Ontario Conservatives and championed by Tim Hudak, who has loudly attacked unions.
 
Poilievre and Hudak use the same false language that has been used in the US, calling their plan “workers freedom’’ legislation and talking about a “flexible” workforce. This is code for squashing workers’ ability to have a say in their wages, conditions and benefits and it would hand all this power to the employer.
 
Although it would not end trade unionism, gutting the Rand formula would mean that workers could be “free-riders” in a workplace where the union has bargained wages, benefits and working conditions. The union would still be bound to protect these workers even though they don’t pay union dues, an obviously unfair situation. The resources of the union to bargain, to represent workers on grievances and advocate for workers rights on health and safety and equality issues would also be undermined.
 
Mobilizing
 
The Labour Council campaign kick-off proposed sharp and clear messages to counter the false and misleading information. It was a strong call-to-arms for a broad, massive mobilization.
 
The main message was that every trade unionist should immediately begin to organize in her workplace and local to build the campaign to stop this attack. It was also a call to the labour leadership to support this effort by providing resources—especially booked-off campaigners—to increase the capacity of the labour movement to make this campaign successful.
 
Lunchtime information meetings, special local meetings to discuss the issue, information pickets at large workplaces and engaging community partners were some of the ideas put forward.
 
The next campaign meeting will be Thursday, April 4 at 7:30pm. To find out more about the campaign, please visit http://www.labourcouncil.ca/

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