Unions and secret votes

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In her letter of Dec. 23, “Simms missed the boat,” Mary Shortall replaces alleged undue employer influence with (alleged) undue union influence.

Shortall accuses columnist Randy Simms of missing the boat because he suggested workers in a given workplace should have a vote to decide if they want a union or not.

She accuses employers of unduly influencing  employees when it comes to the vote, so her solution is to remove the vote. 

Workers, she says, are better off signing cards at their kitchen tables at the encouragement of union staff and leaders.

Then, she suggests, if there are allegations of unfairness or inappropriate behaviour, the Labour Relations Board (LRB) will investigate. “Trust us” is the motto. If the LRB is good enough to investigate undue union influence, then why was it not sufficient to investigate the undue employer influence she alleges?

This brings it all back to a secret and confidential vote of employees so they can decide what they want, with no one looking over their shoulders.

The provincial government changed legislation last year such that workers can now have a union certified just by signing cards, with no vote, if a certain threshold of cards are signed. In the previous model, workers could sign cards, but then a ballot was held to ensure that workers could vote in confidence without having undue union influence as they signed their cards.

The letter also misleads the reader to believe somehow the employer conducts and counts the vote.

An independent third party, the LRB, conducts the vote and representatives of the union and the employer are both entitled to be present to act as scrutineers during the voting (this is right in LRB policy). The envelopes with names on them are only ones that scrutineers cannot agree on as being a part of the bargaining unit — a process in which both parties, union and employer are a part of.

The obvious solution would be ensuring an appropriate and confidential ballot for workers. It is no solution to allege undue employer influence, and then remove a vote and make everything subject to card signing with its potential shortcomings.

If it’s democracy we all laud, its most primary means is secret balloting. 

Isn't it that simple?

Derek Butler

St. John’s

Organizations: Labour Relations Board

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  • Ed Power
    December 29, 2013 - 17:34

    The bottom line? The corporate sector - Mr. Butler and friends - do not want their workplaces unionized, and will do whatever is required to ensure that they aren't. Unfortunately, Canada's "New" Government is actively supporting them in their efforts to return the Canadian workplace to the "good olde" pre-union days when workers were little better than indentured servants, and paid accordingly. The Union movement went on cruise control after they thought the battles for decent wages, benefits and pensions had been won and switched their focus to different priorities, not realizing that the corporate Hydra was re-growing new heads, and spending huge amounts of money to convince the uneducated, and seemingly oblivious average citizen, that everything wrong with the economy was the fault of greedy unionized workers. Sadly, it seems to be working, as many people will blame the unions when some factory closes up shop in Canada and moves to China, where trivial things like wages, health and safety and environmental concerns aren't a hindrance to huge quarterly profits. In fact, in some places - including the USA - you can even take advantage of slave labour in prisons. What's not to like about a controlled economic environment and labour force like that. In the words of Bruce Cockburn, the corporate sector and their well-paid political cronies are those "Who rob life of its quality, who render rage a necessity. By turning countries into labour camps, modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom....."