As you may have read in both French and English newspapers from Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke, analysts at the Montreal Economic Institute claim, on democratic grounds, that compulsory votes must be held on certification applications (requests to unionize) to confirm the intention of the concerned workers.
Who is in agreement with this claim? Well, the Employers’ Council (whose former president now heads the Montreal Economic Institute), the Quebec Young Liberals at their latest convention, and the youth wing of the ADQ at its latest convention. They now all feel legitimized by a recent poll that would support their views.
Under the oft used cover of sacred democracy, they claim that 71% of the population agrees with this because “it’s democratic” and—even more surprising—80% of unionized workers would also be in agreement. I would really like to know how pollsters asked the question!
But since when are employers preoccupied with democracy in their workplaces?
The Union is the only player that can bring democracy to the workplace, and that’s what really scares employers!
At first glance, the argument obviously appears founded because it’s democratic and who would dare speak up against a democratic vote.
But in reality, none of this is true.
The vast majority of union members have never had to fight for the right to unionize and have never participated in an organizing drive.
At the recognition dinner organized by Local Union 869 in spring 2009, homage was paid to those who played a role in organizing Rolls Royce Canada. Homage was paid to their COURAGE, the courage to stand up to the employer, with all of its associated risks, the courage to stand up to their colleagues who were anti-union, and the courage to gain respect regardless of the personal consequences of their actions.
In 2009, organizing drives are still carried out in secret, as if it was still illegal today to unionize. Why is this so?
It’s because workers are still to this day discharged for exercising their right to organize. When an employer cannot justify discharges on disciplinary grounds, workers often end up isolated, spied on and subtly threatened. It’s because employers use villainous means to de-motivate those workers who seek only to be respected. They will not hesitate to place anonymous phone calls to workers’ spouses to presumably announce the abolition of their employment or the closure of the plant or office.
Those of you who attended the last convention of the QFL in Quebec City had the opportunity to hear of such examples during a 90-minute presentation. Think of Messier Dowty in Mirabel or Walmart in Saguenay.
Why is the right to organize perceived as a disadvantage for Quebec companies competing on the international stage? Are things that bad in Quebec?
No, that is not the reason.
The reason is very simple. These companies are anti-union to the core. They are against giving their workers the right to respect, free bargaining and compliance with labour laws and standards. Things are so much easier for employers when they do not have to worry about unions, arbitration, bargaining and when they are given free reign to implement inadequate occupational health and safety committees with poorly trained workers and unlimited managerial rights.
Why do they seek to make certification votes compulsory?
Because, should a certification application be filed and a vote be held one week or two after the filing of the application, it gives them the opportunity to speak to THEIR employees 8, 12 or 16 hours a day and explain to them—with the help of their lawyers—that unionization is risky business, that the company could shut down or move to another province or country. Threats can be made to fire union activists, to create dissension, mistrust, fear, whistle blowing and worry among employees and their families in turn.
There is a single goal: to maintain total control over workers’ lives.
I urge you to discuss this during your union meetings, regardless of where they are held, to explain to those you know, your family members and children why the current certification system is fully adequate.
The current process is highly democratic because it requires an actual majority (50% + 1) of workers concerned rather than a simple majority of those who exercised their right to vote.
If you want to know more, ask those who participated in organizing their workplace or were active in organizing drives.
Quebec coordinator, IAMAW