Unions have been struggling in Canada’s current economy. The rate of workers joining unions is on a downward slide, noticeably so in the public sector, despite the fact the unions helped to stabilize and grow the economy in the past. Due to the current economic turmoil, unions have had to resort to strategies that will allow them to lower operating costs and compete with global competitors. Although unions are facing difficulties, they are still of benefit to workers.
History of Unions in Canada and their Effects on the Economy
Unions have been apart of Canadian history since the early 1800’s. Records show tradesmen in the Maritimes having unions during the war of 1812 despite such organizations not being legalized in Canada until 1872 (Maple Leaf Web). Approximately 31% of all workers in Canada belong to unions (United Food and Commercial Workers Canada)(Canadian Labour Congress). The public sector – including schools, hospitals, and crown corporations – have a unionization rate of 71%, while in the private sector the rate is 16% and falling (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2012). Historians have credited the growth in Canada’s middle-class to unions because they offered higher wages and job security, which allowed for members to have extra income to spend on commodities such houses, clothing, cars, etcetera. This increased the demand for those items, and helped grow and stabilize the economy (United Food and Commercial Workers Canada). Although unions were of benefit in the past, membership has been on a 30-year decline (Figure 1) and the usefulness of such organizations has come into question due to unionized workers pay and benefits lagging behind workers who are non-unionized (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2012). This report will cover the history of unions in Canada, and their impact on the Canadian economy. The factors covered suggest that unions are still of benefit at the present. History...
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