Case Scenario Written by Charles Purchase, Seneca College
Phil Stone has been a union organizer for 15 years. He recently targeted a firm in the garment industry. Up to this point he has had informal discussions with a few of the company’s four hundred employees so that he can get a better feel for the chances of succeeding in the organizing drive. Phil is aware that he does not face a ‘slam dunk’ in this situation and his prediction is that the certification vote could be very close. He is aware that launching a full organizing campaign is an expensive proposition for the union, in time as well as resources, and his personal reputation as a successful organizer is at stake. That being said, the union needs additional members as their overall membership has decreased in recent years. The decrease in membership has meant a decrease in union dues and a resultant loss of manpower and resources in the union offices. All of the full time personnel in the union are spread very thin so, if the union proceeds with the organization drive, they have to be successful. The vast majority of the employees in the company are women who have been in Canada for less than five years.
What major events in Canada’s labour relations history got Phil to the point in which he could lawfully organize a union, have it certified, and negotiate a collective agreement with the company? Answer: The major events in labour history are the division between craft and industrial unions, the influcen of the US-based AFL, and 1944 change in legal environment with the passage of legislation supporting collective bargaining. One of the first international unions to operate in Canada was the Knights of Labour. The union organized members in Canada in the 1880s. The Knights organized unskilled labour as well as those belonging to particular trades and crafts. The union was also successful at organizing on a plant basis. In Canada, the Knights had given some workers their first opportunity to belong to a union. Being said, this event marked an important step so people could affiliate to a union. The Knights were very popular in Quebec and eventually combined with craft unions to establish the Trades and Labour Congress. As a result of international unions operating in Canada, information about the law in the United States was followed closely. The Committee for Industrial Organizing was very active in Canada for unions based in the United States. In 1937, the Trades and Labour Congress prepared a draft statute for provinces to adopt, taking a great many ideas from the Wagner Act. All provinces, except Ontario and Prince Edward Island, then passed laws based on the draft statute, which confirmed that collective bargaining was legal. This legislation made it illegal for an employer to interfere with the rights of an employee or to refuse to bargain with a union that represented the majority of the workforce. Later, Ontario passed a law that went further in establishing a Labour Court to deal with issues of union selection. As a result of the Snider case in 1925, in times of national emergency the responsibility for the civil rights of employers and employees reverted to the federal government. During the Second World War, the federal government passed laws regulating industries associated with the war effort, in fact covering most industries. The laws were consolidated into the Wartime Labour Relations Regulations (1944), which were also known as PC1003.PC1003 tried to achieve a balance between the competing rights of employees, both individually and collectively, and the rights of employers. Therefore, unions were not allowed to interfere in employers' organizations or to use tactics to force union membership. Unions could only carry out union activity at a workplace during working hours with the agreement of an employer and could not cause any restrictions on production such as slow downs. Employers were not allowed to interfere in...
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