The ability of workers to collectively organize is a fundamental right, which has been rightly recognized by Canada's Constitution specifically the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. USW Local 2009 says that it’s time to restore fairness and balance after 16 years of the BC Liberals tilting the laws in favour of employers.

The BC Liberal government altered the Code to require working people to choose a union twice:

  •  first, by signing a membership card with a certified bargaining agent; and
  •  secondly, with mandatory certification votes held some time later.

This change represented a departure from the Canadian tradition and imported a process more familiar to American labour relations. Currently, the ballot requirement (in essence a second vote to reconfirm support for the union) and the ability of employers to communicate with workers during unionization campaigns allows them to discourage employees from joining a union and leaves workers subject to intimidation, threats and bullying from anti-union employers and their agents.

During organizing drives, workers commonly hear that unionizing may lead to reductions in pay or benefits, that the business could close, or that there will be layoffs. The principles underlying all certification processes are that employees should choose whether or not they wish to be represented by a union as a group, and free from undue influence.

There have been a number of studies, published in top journals, showing that the requirement of a ballot in Canada significantly increases the level of unfair labour practice filings and significantly reduces the likelihood of a union becoming organized. One Canadian study suggests that 80% of employers facing a certification drive oppose it. Sixty percent overtly resisted certification by, for example, expressing concern or opposition in captive audience meetings or trying to stall the vote. And almost 20% do things that are likely unfair labour practices (e.g., threats, dismissal).

The card-check system is the preferred method of union certification allowing workers the choice to gain and maintain collective representation. Such a system eliminates the requirement for secret ballot voting to approve a union as the sole and exclusive representative of workers. Instead, unions are automatically certified if a majority of workers sign union membership cards.

The key argument for card check is that it denies employers the opportunity to try a sink the organizing campaign during the time between the application and the vote. The likely effect of re-introducing card check provisions in BC is that there will be more and more successful union organizing drives. When BC moved from card check to mandatory votes in 1984, there was a 50% reduction in certification drives and a 19% reduction is successful private-sector drives. A return to card check in 1993 saw a 19% increase is successful private-sector drives. Other studies have found similar effects.

In April 2019 Labour Minister Harry Bains abandoned plans to scrap the secret ballot vote during union certification drives, despite heavy lobbying from union allies that the move was necessary to boost worker rights.

Premier John Horgan campaigned on the idea of card check, which unions have said would make it easier to certify. However, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said he would never support eliminating the secret ballot process, forcing the government to back off due to the NDP minority government requiring the three Green MLAs to pass legislation.

Bains acknowledged that if the NDP did not need the Green votes, it would have proceeded with the change to card check. “If I was proceeding with a majority government that would have been my preference,” said Bains.

The NDP now has a majority government and the time to enact card check is now!

We strongly believe that the right to freedom of association belongs to the worker; and employers ought not be given a special opportunity to infringe upon this Charter right. The choice of joining a union is the result of dialogue between workers and a trade union, and ought not be unduly fettered by the requirement that workers confirm their initial decision to sign a membership card by also participating in a certification vote.

On balance, card check appears to result in workers being better able to choose whether or not they want to unionize free from intimidation. The general average in common law jurisdictions is 50%+1, even in those jurisdictions that have automatic certification. We recommend 50%+1 as an appropriate threshold for automatic certification.

The NDP now has a majority government and USW Local 2009 calls on the government to enact card check now!





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