The Alberta provincial opposition party the UCP recently held its convention in Red Deer. The conference was small—its 2300 participants represented only .1% of all the eligible voters in Alberta—but the event was much ballyhooed by the monopoly media and its pundits. While it seems that nothing in terms of “official policy” came out of the convention, one matter that was raised concerned proposals to undermine provincial labour unions. This is obviously a concern for CUPE 3911 and its members.
According to a draft list of policy proposals for the convention that was obtained by the media, the UCP is currently considering a proposal that would see it champion American-style “right-to-work” legislation in Alberta, anti-union laws that are deliberately designed to weaken and bankrupt labour unions. Labour organizations often refer to them as “right-to-be-a-slave laws.” Currently 28 U.S. states, mostly in the south and west, have put such laws into effect. U.S. statistics show that workers in right-to-work states overall have lower wages, fewer benefits, and worse health and safety laws than workers in other states.
The right-to-be-a-slave proposal emanated from former Harper Conservative minister Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat), who now heads his own publicity firm which has connections with UCP leader Jason Kenney, and who also works for Sun News. The policy proposal vaguely references “misleading or intimidating union tactics” and proposes that “No individual should be forced to join or pay for a union against their will”. This disinformation trots out the old falsehood that workers join unions because they are forced to rather than because unions protect them and fight for their rights and their just demands.
The Solberg proposal calls on the UCP to ensure that employees who choose not to join a workplace union “not be required to pay union dues”. Right-to-work laws thus allow workers in unionized workplaces to opt out of union membership, including paying dues. However, the union is still legally obliged to defend the “free rider” even though he or she does not contribute anything to the union so the ultimate effect of free riders will be to bankrupt the union. Overall, right-to-work is a dangerous proposal for Alberta workers and needs to be opposed.