Critics find the flaws in anti-union right-to-work laws

philipcox Political Action

Right wing mouthpiece the Fraser Institute has come out in favour of Oklahoma-style right-to-work legislation, legislation which harms working people and benefits business. Even the Vancouver Sun sees the folly in this anti-worker proposal, as seen in the editorial below.

For a more in-depth look at the dangers of right-to-work laws, see this article from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Sun Editorial: No compelling reason for right-to-work law

Vancouver Sun, September 7, 2013

A new study recommending right-to-work legislation for B.C. would set the cat among the pigeons, disrupting an existing situation of labour peace for who knows how long.

The Fraser Institute asserts in a report it released earlier this week, that B.C. could enhance its competitiveness by introducing “worker choice” laws, laws that would prevent any collective agreement from forcing workers to pay dues for union representation.

That, in turn, would drive down the numbers of British Columbians covered by unionized contracts.

As a result, says the study, manufacturing output in the province would grow by 0.2 per cent, or $200 million.

Gross output would increase by nearly $4 billion, with another 19,000 jobs being created.

The think-tank bases its projection on the example of Oklahoma, which adopted right-to-work legislation in 2001 and thereafter experienced growth in its manufacturing sector. Another 23 U.S. states also have such legislation, enacted between 1943 and 2012.

The study cites research showing real annual economic growth in those right-to-work states is 0.8 of a percentage point higher than in the non-right-to-work states.

“The prospective benefits should engender a debate in Canada and in the provinces about the policy reforms needed to maintain and enhance competitive positions. A (right-to-work) law should be prominent among them.”

Right now in Canada, mandatory union membership is permitted in collective agreements and can even be a condition of employment.

Also, workers covered by union contract can be forced to pay union dues even when opting out of union membership.

But if unions are bad for economic growth, B.C. already has something of a competitive advantage, at least within Canada. Its unionization rate last year was 31.3 per cent — lower than five other provinces, including Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

And unionization rates have been dropping in Canada since 1997 when 33.7 per cent of the country’s workforce was unionized.

The rate today is 31.5 per cent.

Canada also has significantly improved its position in terms of reducing time lost to strikes and lockouts.

In 1976, 10.6 hours were being lost per employee.

By 2011, lost time was down to just one hour, 1.8 hours in B.C.

In other words, a period of labour peace is being enjoyed in this country.

And it can be argued, at a time when business is under pressure to find economies in the workplace, resulting in a growing tendency toward two-tiered benefits that disadvantage newer hires, unions provide a healthy counterweight in striving to protect worker benefits.

Unions most certainly can complicate a company’s operations but they also standardize a company’s dealings with its disgruntled workers so that everyone knows the rules and procedures to be followed in the event of any dispute.

The adage, “if something isn’t broken, do not try to fix it,” applies in this debate.

The system is operating reasonably well and should not be disturbed by a sudden change that inevitably would result in an awful lot of flying feathers.

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