REALity Volume XXX1 Issue No 4 July 2012

Unions in Canada are not required to make public their use of the money they haul in by way of compulsory union dues. This is despite the fact that the prosperity of organized labour in this country is based on these compulsory union dues.

This situation however, may be somewhat curtailed if a private member’s bill, by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, (South Surrey-White Rock- Cloverdale) is passed. Bill C-377, introduced on December 5, 2011, passed second reading on March 14, 2012 and currently is before House of Commons Committee for review. If passed, this bill will lay bare the secrets of Canada’s unions representing employees working in federal jurisdictions such as the airlines, postal, and transportation industries, and federal government employees.  Because provincial unions make donations to charities, which latter must declare their income under the federal Income Tax Act, the requirement of transparency under this bill may apply to provincial unions as well.

Fortunately, the government supports this bill. The bill requires every labour union under federal jurisdiction to file with the Minister of Revenue, an annual public information return, containing all union transactions and disbursements, salaries of officers and directors, and a record of the percentage of time dedicated to political and lobbying activities.  Under this bill, unions will be required to provide statements on all contributions, gifts and grants, including all non-labour related expenditures.  In short, this bill is attempting to provide some transparency with regard to the money and activities of unions.

At the present time, labour union leaders in Canada are like absolute monarchs, living royally off compulsory union fees. These leaders are not required to account for any of their expenditures, whether they be their own salaries or others’, bonus or gifts, travel expenses, investments, etc. They are not taxed on any of the money they receive from the compulsory union dues.

Additionally, union leaders are not required to account for any of the causes they support and promote with union dues. Over the years, unions have become the godfathers of the left.  They have supported Morgentaler and his cause for abortion on demand, feminists and homosexual organizations, as well as same-sex marriage activists.  It seems that any policy that fits the socialist, left-wing agenda can be assured of union support paid from these compulsory union dues.

Additionally, even though unions are, quite literally, rolling in money, they have also been given a grant from CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) to “educate” both Canadians and those abroad on union and equality issues.   Wealthy unions were even provided with funding from the notorious Court Challenges Program (now disbanded by the Conservative government) to intervene in several homosexual legal cases.  For example, the Canadian Labour Congress was funded to intervene in the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. vs. Vriend, which ordered the province of Alberta to include protection for homosexuals in its human rights legislation.  The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) was funded by the Court Challenge Program to intervene in R. v. Rosenberg, in which the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered that homosexual partners be considered  “spouses” under the Income Tax Act.

Courts in Canada have also been incredibly supportive of unions. The affinity that the Supreme Court of Canada has with unions, is curious and even eerie, The Supreme Court of Canada has persistently backed labour unions in their disputes and this has prevented any fundamental change in union power, control and influence in this country.  For example:

▪           In 2001, in the Mervyn Lavigne case, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the payment of compulsory union dues and the use of such funds for non-union purposes.

▪             In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a controversial Quebec law that forced construction workers to join one of only five government approved unions, in order to work in the province, i.e., it forced construction workers to associate with specific unions.

▪           In 2002, the Supreme Court of Canada required the Conservative government in Ontario, to facilitate the unionization of farm workers.

▪           In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that a union’s collective bargaining process is an (unwritten) right protected by the 1982 Charter of Rights, and that, if the government interfered with collective bargaining, it would be violating the freedom of association provision in the Charter.

Another serious problem with unions is that there is no legislation to regulate internal and union affairs, at all. Labour laws only cover issues such as the collective bargaining process, etc.  Consequently there are no restrictions on unions as to elections of union leaders, the conduct of candidates, length of office, the fiduciary responsibilities of officers, and removal from office, issues which are governed almost entirely by the union’s own by-laws. Also, the duties and liabilities of union officers is governed only by their own by-laws. That is, there is little control of unions because they are regarded by the courts as essentially private organizations which are permitted the greatest degree of autonomy possible.

Something has to be done to control the abuse of union dues by union leaders. MP Hiebert’s bill is a good start to expose the activities of union bosses and their expenditures.

Related Articles:

High Flying Union Leaders July 2015

Brief on Bill C-377 An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for Labour Organizations) May 2013