I am writing in response to your Sept. 21 article, Worker Choice Laws Make Union Leaders More Accountable (Guest Column). The Fraser Institute is nothing more than a slick advertising company whose sole purpose is to maximize corporate profits. Each time you see an article by this group you should understand their bias.
Worker choice laws (right to work laws) sound appealing. Who would not support choice or the right to work? However, the sole purpose of these laws is not about giving workers choice or the right to work; it is about weakening labour unions and thus maximizing corporate profits.
These laws give workers the ability to opt out of paying union dues. The worker still receives all the benefits of union membership (higher wages, better working conditions, even union protection) but opts out of paying for these services. By starving trade unions of funding, the unions become less effective. Lower wages along with a decrease in working conditions result in maximizing corporate profits.
The Fraser Institute would have you believe unions need increased oversight to be accountable to members; nothing could be further from the truth. To become unionized a certification vote must take place (democracy). If positive (50 per cent plus 1) all members of the workplace are in the union. This is the democratic process.
The Fraser Institute article states “Canadian workers can still be forced to join a union and pay full dues even if they disagree with the causes that unions spend resources on.” True they can; this is the democratic process.
Using the Fraser Institute logic the following should apply: I don’t like Steven Harper’s policies, I did not vote for the Conservatives in the last election, I can opt out, stop paying taxes and still receive all the benefits of Canadian citizenship.
If members are unhappy with their union, the union can be decertified by a vote (50 per cent plus 1). All of our union leaders are elected by our members. Our budget is available to and approved each year by members. Both unit and provincial audits are available to members. Our finances are an open book to all our members and always have been.
The authors of this article quote a few statistics:
• The private-sector unionization rate about half the rate in non-right-to-work states.
• Members pay dues that are, on average, 14 to 15 per cent less than union members in states with less worker choice.
• Union executives tend to be paid lower in right-to-work states.
• Worker choice laws result in a 1-per-cent jump in employment levels.
Basically, unions go broke. Any new jobs created are minimum wage.
The Fraser Institute left out these facts. In states with right-to-work laws:
• The average worker makes $5,971 (12.2 percent) less annually;
• Median household income is $6,568 (11.8 per cent) less than in other states.
• 25.9 percent of jobs are in low-wage occupations, compared with 18 per cent of jobs in other states.
• People under the age of 65 are more likely to be uninsured (16.3 per cent, compared with 12.4 per cent in free-bargaining states).
• Workers are less likely to have job-based health insurance.
• Spending is 31.3 per cent less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states.
• The rate of workplace deaths is 54.4 per cent higher.
As you can see the Fraser Institute ignored the vast majority of data in their article in order to sell their product (higher corporate profits). As President Obama stated “what they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
Unions make a difference fighting for fair wages and working conditions, not just for our members but for all workers. Unions have been at the forefront of increases to worker benefits including maternity leave, workers compensation, paid medical leave and increased wages including the minimum wage.
I leave you with a final thought: Unions throughout their history have demonstrated their concern for workers and their rights. Do you believe the Fraser Institute shares this same concern?
President, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, Secondary