Ottawa – April 8, 2022 – During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became even more apparent that workers needed a voice in their workplace. The coronavirus has further revealed the extent of the gaps in workplace protections for workers, especially for the most vulnerable and lowest-paid.
Many employers showed disregard for their workers' health and safety, demanding more of them during the pandemic without providing any improvements to their working conditions. Even those who were fortunate to see some pandemic pay increases quickly had it taken away.
This opened the eyes of many workers, who realized the only way they can fight for real change in their workplace and have a true voice over their working conditions is by joining a union. UFCW Canada has experienced this firsthand, with workers in traditionally difficult workplaces to organize reaching out for help. UFCW has been successful in organizing Indigo bookstores, PetSmart locations, movie theatres, and numerous cannabis dispensaries to name a few.
Workers have a Charter right to join a union, but in most provinces the organizing process is difficult and advantageous to employers. Even when a majority of workers sign cards to join the union, they must go through a vote, usually conducted at work and in close proximity to their employer. A young woman who recently helped organize her Starbucks location in Victoria, British Columbia noted that even though 90 percent of the employees had signed cards to join the union, they had to wait until a vote was held and during that time Starbucks brought in high-paid union busters to try and dissuade them.
Intimidation and coercion from employers are one of the biggest impediments to workers successfully organizing their workplace, and in the time between workers expressing their desire to join the union and a vote taking place, employers bring in lawyers and union busters to apply pressure. At times, workers who lead organizing campaigns are fired, employers threaten layoffs or workplace closures, and workers are subjected to group and one-on-one meetings to dissuade them from unionizing.
That is why it is great to see British Columbia's NDP government introduce Bill 10, which will restore one-step certification (card check) in the province. Previous NDP governments in B.C. had implemented such a process, but it is always eliminated when a new right-wing party comes to power. This is a familiar story across the country.
Ontario also had a one-step certification process for decades, but upon forming government, Conservative Premier Mike Harris eliminated card check with Liberal and Conservative governments never restoring it except for a small group of construction workers.
The new process in B.C. will allow for workplaces to be certified without requiring a second vote when 55 percent or more of the workers sign a union card expressing their desire to join the union. If 45 to 55 percent sign, there will be a second vote.
The B.C. NDP government deserves a nod for recognizing that workers should have a voice in their workplace, free from threats and intimidation from their employer. As B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains said when announcing Bill 10, “under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, workers who wish to collectively organize must not be impeded in any way.”