Hudak, Ryan both wrong on unions
Jeff Goodall, Guest Columnist
I’ve been concerned for many years about the use of union dues to warp and distort the political process.
Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan recently announced his plans to counter Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s intention to dismantle the Rand Formula in Ontario, which requires workers who benefit from the activities of a union in their workplace to pay dues to the union, regardless of whether they wish to do so.
Hudak says he wants to “modernize” Ontario’s labour laws to take away the right of unions to collect dues and to make union membership voluntary.
He would also outlaw what he calls “forced paycheque contributions” which unionized workers have to make to political causes.
I certainly agree with him on the latter point.
But after 20 years of filing grievances on behalf of City of Toronto inside workers and simultaneously fighting against unions spending compulsory dues on partisan political issues, I am greatly disturbed by both Ryan’s and Hudak’s positions.
They appear to be locked into ideologically-based mindsets, seemingly impervious to reality, which will not help workers or the people of Ontario in general.
My union experience includes researching and filing grievances, assisting at higher-level hearings, occasionally filling in for business representatives to provide direction to union solicitors at arbitration hearings, and providing related input for bargaining purposes.
I have seen enough arbitrary, unfair and malicious actions taken against employees by persons in authority, to pretty much destroy any faith I previously may have had in human decency.
As it is not possible to prevent employees from being subjected to the arbitrary whims of management, I am adamant in my belief all employees should have access to a fair means of obtaining redress against such treatment, including binding arbitration.
And that won’t be available in the “right-to-work” environment Hudak favours.
At the same time, I am a conservatively-minded immigrant (1966) of British extraction, who regards himself as a refugee from socialism.
I despise the actions of the labour movement in using captive union dues to pursue a socialist political agenda, which I regard as both unnatural and destructive.
As I see it, there are two types of unionism, “social unionism” and “business unionism”.
“Social unionism” refers to those who believe that union members are responsible for the well-being of all workers everywhere. They will spend substantial amounts of union dues money in support of what they perceive as “social justice”.
“Business unionism” refers to the practice of a union spending its dues exclusively on looking after bargaining and workplace representation for its own members.
I want unions to exist in this world, because I want workers to be protected from unfair labour practices.
At the same time, I want union leaders to be prevented from using compulsory dues as a political slush fund for what I see as unwanted and destructive political activities.
There is no possible approach to this issue that is totally fair to all concerned.
But I do believe, simultaneously, that taking away the Rand Formula will destroy workers’ rights to fair treatment, and that spending dues money on political issues is immoral and unacceptable.
Tim Hudak, please pay attention.
— Guest Columnist Goodall served for 20 years as a union steward and executive board officer for CUPE Local 79, Toronto inside workers