REALity – Volume XXXIV Issue No.7 July 2015

The powerful labour unions in Canada have moved heaven and earth to stop the passing into law of Bill C-377 which requires the financial dealings of their unions be made public.

The Bill passed the House of Commons in December, 2012, and has remained stuck in the Senate since then.

The unions have been supported by the Liberal Senators, (although, according to Justin Trudeau, they really are not Liberal Senators), who stalled the bill with all their considerable knowledge of procedural tricks and manoeuvers. They had been trying to talk the bill out, due to the expected government Parliamentary recess and a likely election call. This would have caused the bill to die on the Order Paper. The “Liberal” Senators have been only too happy to allow the bill to die in order to please union leaders, who, the Senators are hopeful will put their votes into the Liberal pocket, rather than that of the NDP. In short, to defeat this bill would be the delight and joy of the labour unions and the Liberal Senators were only too happy to try to accommodate them.

The senators began preparing a summer-long filibuster to prevent Bill C-377 coming to a final vote. In this scramble to have the bill defeated, the unions had called on all manner of groups and individuals to scare the public by portraying the bill as a terrible danger to democracy and individual freedoms. These extraordinary, exaggerated arguments against the bill filled the air in the Senate Chamber for months.

Finally, exasperated, the Conservative Senators, on June 25, 2015, brought forward a motion demanding a six-hour limit be placed on debate on the bill, and that a vote be called on the bill before the Senate recesses for the summer.  On June 30, 2015 the bill was voted on, and this finally put an end to the longwinded debate, by a vote of 35 to 22.

What was it about this bill that froze the blood of union leaders? The reason this bill was so detested by the union leaders was that it curtailed their powers to freely spend the $4 billion annually they receive in compulsory union dues from Canadian workers.

The Effect of Bill C-377

Bill C-377 did not ask anything unreasonable of union leaders. All it requires is that union leaders publicly disclose the details of officers’ or executives’ salaries over $100,000; bonuses and gifts they receive; payments over $5,000 that unions are making for political and lobbying activities; the percentage of time they dedicate to these political activities; their administration costs and all other non-labour related expenditures. That is, this bill attempts to provide some transparency with regard to the money and activities being carried out by secretive union leaders.

It is significant that the bill did not deal with the more controversial issue of the requirement that all workers must pay union dues whether they like it or not, or the fact that the union funds are being used for political activities for left-wing causes, contrary to some of the members’ religious and/or political beliefs.

It is a fact that Canada is one of the few countries in the free world that forces workers to pay union dues.   In most other countries, governments have decided that it is a basic human right to allow employees to choose whether or not to belong to a union. Other countries have also reformed union laws to reduce the power of unions in order to protect individual employees and promote business flexibility. Not so in Canada.

In the United States, for example, unionized workers can opt out of the portion of their dues that would be used for activities not related to collective bargaining, such as political campaigns. Likewise, France, Ireland, Italy and Germany all have legislation which prohibits the use of compulsory dues for contributions to political parties or candidates.

As a result of the unions’ complete freedom to spend compulsory union dues at their own discretion, they have become the godfathers of the left, using compulsory union dues as a battering ram to organize and assist left-wing causes, such as abortion, feminism, homosexuality, same-sex marriages and other political causes. For example: (1) unions are in opposition to Israel and in support of the Palestinian cause; and (2) the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) – the largest union of federal public servants in the country – endorsed the two Separatist parties in the September 2012 Quebec election. In effect, the federal employees were compelled to pay to support the break-up of the country.

Justin Trudeau and Bill C-377

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau opposes Bill C-377, referring to it as “the anti-worker’s bill”. He claims that the bill singles out unions and places an unfair administrative burden on them and claims that the bill serves “no demonstrable public good nor necessary policy objective”. He said that the Liberal party believes “that these bills were designed as a direct attack on unions, meant to diminish and weaken the labour movement in our country.”

On April 27, 2015, Trudeau spoke to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in Ottawa, where he stated that his party rejected Bill C-377 because of the burden it places on unions.

Mr. Trudeau apparently was not aware that the IAFF is an American union, with a Canadian affiliate with 23,300 professional firefighters from across Canada as members. It is headquartered in Washington, but does have a Canadian office in Ottawa. Since 1959, the IAFF has been required, under US legislation, to make public its donations. This requirement was passed at the time John Kennedy was President: he stated that the purpose of publicizing unions’ expenditures was to “root out corruption in the labour movement”. The importance of this provision is evidenced by the fact that the office of Labour Management Standards, responsible for enforcing US labour laws, is credited with uncovering over 900 cases of criminal corruption for inappropriate and fraudulent activity by unions between 2001 and 2008. This basic requirement of transparency hasn’t hurt the IAFF, which remains alive and well.

Because of the requirement to make public its donations, the IAFF was required to also post its Canadian donations. In 2014 the IAFF paid out:

  • $105,000 to the left-wing Broadbent Institute in Ottawa;
  • $124,000 to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC); and
  • $8,100.00 to the Ontario Liberal party.

By his opposition to Bill C-377, Trudeau obviously hopes union members will vote for his party in the forthcoming federal election. In short, his pro-union message was no accident. As stated by Jerry Dias, National President of Union for Canada (UNIFOR), which is the largest private sector union in Canada, formed in 2013 by a merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union, he had been waiting to hear such words from the federal Liberal leader, … “we will absolutely be supporting Liberals in key ridings”.

The Liberal Party, under Justin Trudeau, has been slipping in the polls. Trudeau seems to think that anything goes in his search for votes – even if his position doesn’t make sense or help many Canadians.

Union Payback

The union leaders are not about to forgive the Conservatives and their bill which will publicly expose their finances. They know that if a Conservative government is re-elected in the October 19, 2015 election, they will be forced to comply with the law, in contrast to the fact that if either the Liberal or NDP party forms the next government, each has promised to repeal the law.

As a result, the unions recently entered into an agreement with Liberal and NDP high level backroom organizers to pour millions of union dollars into a TV ad campaign to be aired in English speaking Canada, to discredit the Conservative government. The ad campaign is called “Engage Canada”. The unions involved in this campaign include UNIFOR and The United Steelworkers (USW).

The first of these 30 second TV ads has been aired, claiming that, under the Conservatives, inequality has skyrocketed. Even journalists who loathe the Conservatives have complained that these ads are providing false information to deliberately mislead the public.

The Conservatives have long feared a federal equivalent of “Working Families Coalition” – the union umbrella group that has spent massively on attack ads in the past several Ontario elections, contributing to a run of losses for that province’s Progressive Conservatives. The current ads will run before the election is called because of restrictive federal campaign finance laws, which limit spending by any third-party organization during the election period to $205,800 nationally and $4,116 per riding.

In addition to copious monies from the unions, the plan is to add funding from other “progressive” organizations and individuals in order to defeat the Conservatives.

Union leaders clearly do not want any restraints placed on their free spending ways and will spend an inordinate amount of money, collected from workers, to prevent this from happening. Unlike workers in other countries, union workers here have no choice but to fund these aggressive union leaders’ partisan activities and their so far undisclosed salaries and benefits.