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  • authored by Members for Democracy
  • published Fri, Dec 12, 2003

The Inhumanity of the Labour Relations System

Until a little more than one hundred years ago in the American south, millions of human beings were enslaved in the name of profit. Subject to the most appalling cruelty, they were relegated to the status of less than human and their continued exploitation was considered quite justifiable by the mainstream of their society on this basis and on the basis of some pressing practical considerations: An entire economy depended on their enslavement. The plantation owners' continued success in the marketplace for cotton, as it then existed, was dependent on a source of cheap source of labor.

As time passed, economic concerns were buttressed by the belief that the slave owners were morally justified in depriving others of the most fundamental of human rights - liberty. Slavery was a good thing - it was good for the slaves themselves. Not only were the plantation owners doing their bit to keep the economy afloat, they were doing God's work too!

How the hell did they reason their way to slavery as a moral imperative? The following passages from a recent book called False Prophets, by James Hoopes, explain how this warped ideology evolved.

Managing Slaves

As the largest private enterprises of the early republic, cotton plantations presented a managerial challenge and brought into being America's first significant body of management writings, mainly by the slave owners. The planters shared ideas on how to manage slaves, entered essay contests on plantation management, and published scores of articles on the subject in agricultural journals. They soon contradicted [Thomas] Jefferson's view as to the evil of slavery and attempted moral justification of undemocratic top-down power in managing human beings.

The planters eased their moral qualms with assurances that the master's interest was the same as the slave's. Adam Smith had taught that in a free market, self-interest does God's work of maximizing the good of all. The planters extended that ideas to include the management of unfree labor. The slaveholder's self-interest ensured, as one of them put it, that he would fulfill his "duty to know how his slaves are treated, and to protect them against cruelty."

Cotton planters mustered confidence in their own righteousness by insisting on the moral degradation of blacks, who were therefore justly enslaved. "Negroes are by nature tyrannical in their dispositions; and if allowed, the stronger will abuse the weaker."

It followed that "the most important part of management of slaves is always to keep them under subjection."

Godlike power over other human beings can only be justified by god-like virtue, for which the owners did not hesitate to strive. Discipline, one advised, should be administered not in a vengeful spirit but with divine self-control over based passions like angers: "Even in inflicting the severest punishment, do so in a mild, cool manner.."

Hoopes goes on to describe the parallels between the management methods of the plantation owners and how these have come to form part of people management theories and practices that continue in our 21st century workplaces. Included in his discussion of plantation-era human resources management is a reference to the introduction of "overseers", a special layer of people managers who were installed to keep the ever growing and increasing restless slave workforce in line.

"Usually aspiring to having farms of their own, they had little real chance of joining the planter class. Stuck in dead-end jobs, sometimes illiterate, often given to drink, and usually uncouth, overseers seemed, as one planter put it, "the curse of this country... the worst men in the community."

Nonetheless, the disreputable overseers were tolerated because of the valuable role that they played in keeping an increasingly restless slave population where the masters wanted them.

Some Common Threads

As I read through the recently released decision of the Ontario Labour Relations Board in the case of Blasdell v. UFCW Local 1000a, these passages from Hoopes book, which I read earlier this year, came to mind in a big and troubling way.

A lot has changed since the American south of the mid 1800's. Slavery, of the kind that was practiced prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, is no more. Some common threads, however, continue in the management of the modern workplace and for the same reasons.

Workers today are not slaves in the sense that African-Americans were slaves in the American south. Today workers are paid a wage and provided with certain benefits to make life more livable. We have rights, which include the right to collective action to get ourselves a better deal in the workplace. We can exercise those rights by joining unions, which are supposed to bargain good deals for us and to represent our interests and protect our rights.

That's the official story anyway. The reality is that no sooner did we achieve those rights to collective action than the unions that were supposed to represent us got co-opted into the role of overseer by our corporate masters. With the help of our governments - at the federal and provincial levels - a whole "system" was created to give us the illusion the we had rights and representation in the workplace when in fact, we had as much as the master wanted to give us (which varied from time to time) while our unions kept an eye on us and made sure that our interests didn't get in the way of profit.

The modern day overseers are a little different from the ones of the second last century. While some of their representatives fit the description Hoopes uses in his book, the methods of control have changed as have the rewards bestowed on the overseers by the masters. No longer is the overseeing trade a lonely thankless job. Today's union leader/workplace overseer gets a piece of the action and lives large, running his union like a business and making decisions in the same cool, dispassionate manner as the plantation masters of the old era. For their hard work and diligence at keeping millions of people disempowered, they are given the right to do what the hell they please with them as long as they do it in a cool, dispassionate way.

All of this is justified with the same logic as was used in by the 19th century plantation owners: It's good for the economy and it's morally right. In the free market the strong prey upon the weak. We must protect the weak from the strong. Who the modern day tyrants are depends on whom you talk to. It could be the business owners or it could be the militant element within the worker community. Whatever your politics - left or right - the presence of the modern day overseer in the workplace is justified.

And in case anyone doubts this, a whole godly caste has been established to legitimize the "system" and to explain away, with god-like virtue the injustices and punishments it inflicts on the people who it purports to protect.

(P)recapitulation

Vice Chair McLean's decision is filled with virtuous wisdom insofar as the continued disempowerment of working people is concerned. It goes beyond the same-old-same-old DFR-dumping that is a daily event at LRB's across this country. Maybe that's because Blasdell's DFR complaint was not the average DFR (most DFR complaints deal with a union refusing to file a grievance on behalf of a member - Blasdell's complaint dealt with a union conspiring with an employer in pursuit of profit in ways that deprived union members of their most fundamental rights) and so the Vice Chair felt compelled to go the extra mile.

Whatever his reasons, Vice Chair McLean has taken the desecration of workers' rights in a bold new direction. His lengthy decision provides employers and their union partners with legal support for the subjugation of workers rights in favour of business interests. It provides support for the right of union officials to engage in illegal activities to the detriment of workers and lays out in stark and unambiguous terms the reality that - once a union is certified - it can do what it wants without regard to the wishes of its members.

The decision is a mass of spurious reasoning, clumsy contradictions, creative interpretations and innovative spins on the issues McLean was adjudicating. It provides a virtual "how to" guide for other Vice Chairs who must - with godlike virtue - keep the world safe for the corporate masters and their union overseers.

On the plus side - if there can be one - McLean's decision is an explicit expose of what the "labour relations system" - the framework of laws and adjudicators who administer them - is really all about and whose interests it considers worthy of its attention.

Let's take a look at Vice Chair McLean's decision and check out the highlights.

Remember that the issue before McLean was: Did UFCW Local 1000a break the law as alleged in Blasdell's complaint? Did its actions in entering into secret negotiations with the company, agreeing to terms and conditions that significantly changed a collective agreement in mid-term and refusing to put those changes to the members for ratification - at the insistence of the company, constitute actions that are arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith?

On what it's really all about:

The free market and its myths are like a religion. You are expected to take what the leaders of your business and their union overseers tell you, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense or is based on nothing factual.

Thanks to Vice Chair McLean's decision, the primacy of business interests and their mythology is now codified into labour relations jurisprudence:

Loblaws is one of the strongest players in Canada's competitive supermarket sector. Nevertheless, Loblaws is always under business pressure. The company faces stiff competition from other (largely unionized) large grocery chains, and, perhaps more intensely, from other non-union chains (like Costco), individual stores and smaller operations.

(Paragraph 7)

Recently, Loblaws has been particularly concerned about the challenge created by Wal-Mart's entry into the Canadian market. Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer. Its success is based at least in part on its ability to cut costs and thus the prices it charges consumers for goods. Although one can never be sure about the effect of Wal-Mart on the marketplace in any location, generally Wal-Mart is blamed for the demise of many retailers both large and small.

(Paragraph 8)

The "Wal-Mart threat" is nothing more than "business as usual" in the free market. Cheaper labour is always desirable to businesses in the free market. One retailer or other is always responsible for the demise of some other retailer. Why did McLean include these editorial statements in an adjudicator's decision? To make it clear that business mythology trumps justice. The competitive market is king and so, cheap labour is a good thing - a basis for the justification of all manner of abuses and excesses.

On protecting union members' interests:

On its face, Loblaws' threat to open the new superstores under a different banner would appear to be just the kind of situation that section 1(4) of the act (the related employer provisions) was designed to prevent. However, the union obtained legal advice that it might well lose an application under section 1(4). That advice was given orally by in house counsel. The advice is based n the fact that Loblaws has operated its business under a number of different banners for a number of years. Some of the banners and/or stores are non-union and some stores have relationships with different unions. If there was t o be a section 1(4) declaration which collective agreement would apply? Which union would get bargaining rights? Given the history of unionization in this business, would not an application under section 1(4) be seen as an improper attempt to expand bargaining rights? These were all issues which caused counsel to doubt whether Local 1000a would be successful before the Board on such an application.

(Paragraph 14)

Certain laws exist to protect workers from being deprived of their rights to representation by corporate shell games. It's entirely up to your union to decide whether or not it wants to make use of those rights. If it would rather not bother, then all it needs is a legal opinion - which it can get from anyone anywhere - saying it's not worth the hassle. If you challenge your union leaders' wisdom or the quality of the decision, Mr. McLean will give you an earful for asking him and his well-healed colleagues to do address complicated legal issues involving your rights - even though that's their job. They don't really exist for that reason despite what they or the government or your union may be telling you. The LRB is not there to uphold your rights. It's there to protect the interests of the important people in our society. If those important people want to strip you of your rights, they must have a good reason for doing it.

Don't complicate the issue with the facts:

Ben Blasdell disagreed with the biz mythology that had been served up by his union in support of his employer's interests and presented the Board with considerable research to back up his claims.

The Board has little doubt that there are compelling arguments that Loblaws can compete with Wal-Mart in Ontario even under the old collective agreement. Despite the recent concerns that have arisen regarding stock market analysis, those arguments may even be right. However, nothing compels Local 1000a to accept the analysis of equity researchers over it own experience, knowledge and expertise of the industry. From the material before me, it is apparent that Local 1000a carefully considered its assessment of the "the Wal-Mart challenge".

(Paragraph 21)

The LRB is not concerned with the facts. Sure it's possible that Loblaws could do quite well without the concessions that it demanded and got. But that's not the issue. Loblaws wants to do as well as it can, make the biggest pile of dough that it can. That's a laudable goal and one that workers' rights shouldn't interfere with, whatever their rights might be.

At the same time, your union is not required to make decisions based on anything but the knowledge, experience and expertise - the wisdom - of its leaders. If the leaders are lacking in all three of those departments, that's your tough luck.

On your right to be consulted about decisions that affect you:

It has been the history of this union to consult the membership prior to entering into new collective agreements or significant amendments to existing agreements. That was not done in this case, except after the amendment agreement had been signed.

(Paragraph 35)

That's true - it wasn't done. But that's not a problem the Vice Chair says. Your union doesn't have to consult in any meaningful way. See how neatly the Vice Chair turns "information sessions" that were held to present the "done deal" into consultation:

36. The meetings took place. The applicant complains about the amount of notice employees received of the meeting, particularly since they took place in the summer. However, he acknowledges that he attended the meeting and that he was unaware of anyone that did not attend the meeting as a result of the short notice. Therefore, there is no reason for the Board to inquire into these aspects of the complaint. By the time of the meeting, the agreement had been concluded.

(Paragraph 36)

On your right to be heard:

After filing his complaint, many other members came forward in support of the issues Blasdell was raising. Many asked that their names be added to the complaint:

44. ...to permit the persons to be added would lead to potential problems. First, the Board could not be assured that all of the persons, as they would be entitled to as applicants, had proper notice of the consultation. As a result the consultation could have been delayed or there would be a risk that a party would seek to he the matter reheard.

The adjudicators of the labour relations system do not wish to have their time wasted having to notify complainants of proceedings and the like. It's time consuming and gets in the way of the expeditious dumping of workers' complaints.

On your right to freedom from discrimination:

Blasdell alleged that the secret deal his union bargained in the backroom had the potential to discriminate against women workers. He based his claim on a body of credible academic research that supports this proposition. Vice Chair McLean dumped this aspect of the complaint in a preliminary decision issued in October 2002.

In this application the applicant also asserts that the new collective agreement discriminates against women. It relies on the assertion that female employees are disproportionately affected by union concessions in the grocery store sector. It asserts that a "large number of women" are in job classifications that will be affected by the revisions to the collective agreement.

The Board does not accept, as is implicit in this argument, that the UFCW cannot agree to wage concession in bargaining with grocery stores. Accordingly, the Board declines to inquire into this aspect of the complaint. If the applicant requires more detailed reasons, the Board will provide them....

(Paragraph 46)

The Vice Chair dumped this argument because he misunderstood it or maybe just didn't want to deal with it. Blasdell wasn't arguing that any concession bargaining was off limits but rather that concessions which disproportionately affected women workers were prohibited because they are a form of systemic discrimination that is prohibited by human rights legislation - a minor detail. If you put issues to the gatekeepers that they either (a) don't understand or (b) don't want to deal with, don't expect much.

Your right to ratify your collective agreement:

Section 44 of the Ontario Labour Relations Act states that collective agreements must be ratified. This is a fairly recent amendment (enacted in 1995). Prior to that date, unions were free to ratify agreements in whatever manner they saw fit (if they saw fit to do so in the first place). Vice Chair McLean finds a solution to this intrusion into the rights of union leaders to run their businesses as they see fit by putting his own spin on what the legislators had in mind.

It is clear that prior to the amendments which brought in section 44 of the Act that mid term amendments to collective agreements were a regular part of the province's labour relations environment. In deciding that collective agreements ought to be ratified, the legislature did not see fit to grant the same treatment for amendments. Quite simply, there is nothing in section 44 of the Act which compels a ratification vote for anything but a collective agreement.

(Paragraph 72)

What about amendments that are so substantial as to call into question whether a whole new agreement has been entered into in mid term? Let's not burn up a lot of brain cells about that says Vice Chair McLean:

It could lead to significant uncertainty because it would be impossible for parties to know when collective agreement amendments are significant enough to attract a ratification requirement. In addition it would lead to issues in cases where several changes to a collective agreement are made over the life of the agreement, which together might arguably constitute a new collective agreement. In my view the legislature must have intended certainty with respect to this issue, the existence (or not) of a particular collective agreement being so fundamental to sound labour relations.

(Paragraph 74)

Perhaps the legislators had it in mind that workers should vote on all amendments to their contracts? Oh yes, the inconveniences of democracy... having to figure out what to vote on, when to vote, dealing with the outcomes of votes - none of this fits well within the labour relations scheme. So let's just assume - in our own favour - that they must have meant that workers would have the right to vote on as little, as infrequently as possible.

On the real meat of the matter:

When you join a union, you become the property of the union. Although the union is supposed to be your representative, your bargaining agent, your voice - the only one you have - in the workplace, it can do as it sees fit with or without regard to your wishes or your interests.

... the suggestion that the membership are a party to a collective agreement is a misapprehension of the scheme of the Act and a trade union's role within that scheme. Section 45 of the Act makes the trade union the exclusive bargaining agent of the employees n the bargaining unit. The trade union is the party to the collective agreement, not the membership.... The respondent trade union is the legal bargaining agent of the employees its status, however, is quite different from that of an agent in a commercial context. In particular, it is not required to implement the views of majority of employees as though they were its principals. Rather, it negotiates and enters into collective agreements as an independent contracting party. Employees have no independent right to ratify collective agreements apart from the statute."

(Paragraph 76)

On the lies that you're expected to swallow:

This statement - a mouthful of contradictions - articulates the web of distortions that are presented about unions and their relationship with their members.

In my view, the scheme of the Act is similar to that of many of our other democratic institutions. A trade union is selected into office and its collective agreement is ratified by the membership (or not). After that time the trade union has considerable latitude to do as it sees fit to respond to changing circumstances, or otherwise. Such latitude includes the right to agree to wholesale amendments to the collective agreement. The restriction in these rights is the obligation contained in section 74 of the Act that its conduct not be arbitrary, discriminatory or made in bad faith. The remedy for employees who are unhappy with the way that the union has exercises it rights is found in the termination provisions of the Act. That remedy can exercised no less often than every 33 months. As the Board has often said, trade unions are not strictly speaking democratic, they are fighting organizations and the Board should be loathe to impinge on their ability to represent their members as they see fit except where the Act specifically requires the Board's intervention. There is no such requirement applicable here.

(Paragraph 79)

The best that we can make of this is: Unions and their relationship with their members are similar to other democratic institutions. Once workers join a union, they have no real control over what their union does for them or to them. This is because unions are not democratic. They are fighting organizations. For this reason they should be left to deal with their members as they see fit. This is sort of like saying that Canada is a democratic country. But if the Prime Minister of Canada wants to act like a tin pot dictator, that's OK because he's a fighter. No one should interfere with his dictatorial rule or his subjugation of democracy for this reason. If it doesn't make sense to you, there's a good reason for this: It doesn't make sense.

The Vice Chair tries to make it make sense by saying that if the members don't like what their union is doing to them or for them then they can get rid of the union through the decertification provisions of the Labour Relations Act. He leaves out any reference to the fact that tin pot dictators are tremendously difficult to get rid of through legal or democratic means.

He acknowledges this several paragraphs later in his decision (without rethinking his earlier musings about unions being similar to other democratic institutions) when he responds to Blasdell's claim that Local 1000a's timing of the announcement of its backroom deal was deliberately staged so that it fell outside of the window for decertification. (The deal was done by the backroom players at the end of May 2003, approved by the Local's Divisional Committee in mid-June 2003, the decertification window closed at the end of June 2002 and the announcement to the members was made in mid-July 2003).

It is apparent to me that it never occurred to Local 1000a that employees might at that stage be successful in terminating the union's bargaining rights.

(Paragraph 86)

How that's apparent, we're not sure. With the union's undemocratic structure, the members have more chances of flying to the moon without a rocket than changing their bargaining agent. Even McLean agrees:

The difficulty of the challenge facing any employee who wished to terminate bargaining rights cannot have escaped the leadership of Local 1000a. Indeed I am nearly certain that the prospect of termination of bargaining rights was so difficult that it would not have occurred to the Local at all. Let alone be a consideration in the trade union's timing of informing employees of the deal.

(Paragraph 87)

So much for the democratic institution.

Your right to be free from employer interference in your union:

Blasdell cited considerable case law that states that unions have an obligation to consult their members about negotiations and about employer interference in the union's right to communicate with its members about negotiations. The case law was extensive and couldn't be any more clear about the obligation. Here's an example that Blasdell cited in his complaint:

"The Board's jurisprudence time and again has told employers that so long as the union continues o have that authority, the employer must not question or interfere in or attempt to dictate the way the union consults with or represents those employees." (Cuddy Foods)

Vice Chair McLean reviews the case law and then adds a whole new dimension - without saying that it's a whole new dimension.

Before commencing my analysis.... In general I find that absent a legitimate reason it is improper for an employer to insist that a trade union keep secret from its members the fact that negotiations that might have a substantial impact on them. Such a requirement, again absent a legitimate reason, constitutes improper interference with the trade union.

(Paragraph 95)

But the case law doesn't talk about situations where employers can have "legitimate reasons" for breaking the law. This is something the McLean has introduced on his own. This is especially significant as what the Vice Chair is stating is that the law is only the law unless you have a legitimate reason for breaking it. Who decides if your reason is legitimate? Why Vice Chairs like Brian McLean of course.

On being kept in the dark:

One of the issues that Blasdell raised in support of his complaint was that his union kept the members completely in the dark about its negotiations with the company, for many months, at the company's insistence. This, he claimed, was a breach of the law on the company's part as employers are prohibited from interfering in the administration of unions. Watch what the Vice Chair does with this one!

Are the reasons advanced in this case for confidentiality sufficient? Were it necessary for me to decide this issues (which in the result, it is not) I would like have found that they are not.

(Paragraph 97)

Essentially Vice Chair McLean is saying that he would have agreed with Blasdell on this point. But he won't because he has decided, in his wisdom, not to deal with the issue. Why? Get this:

The facts on this issue are somewhat muddled because the responding party (the union) and the intervener (the company) did not identify this as an issue which arose out of the application.

Hold on, isn't identifying the issues your job Mr. Vice Chair? Since when does the accused get to determine the charge or the issues to be decided at trial?

Therefore, there are no specific facts pled on this point. Nevertheless, the Board asked the parties about this issue at the consultation. The parties advised the Board that the employer had made its confidentiality request and the trade union agreed to it, because the employer desired to keep its business strategies secret. While not specifically pled, it appears that the employer's request and the trade union's agreement came early on in the process. I am satisfied that at least initially there may well have been merit to the employer's confidentiality request. The Board ought not to be concerned when an employer apprises a trade union of its confidential business plans at an early stage. Indeed such conduct is to be commended. However the parties' discussions went on for several months. There was no business reason suggested that required Loblaws plans to remain confidential on May 23 but not 2 weeks later. Surely there came a time between January and May when the fact of the negotiations if not the details of the company's plans could be made known to employees.

Having said that, I reject the applicant's argument that a trade union is inherently in violation of section 74 if it accedes to improper or illegal demands made by an employer. In my view, such conduct is, in of itself, neither arbitrary, discriminatory or bad faith vis a vis the employees represented by Local 1000a. The union is free to evaluate the improper or illegal demand and decide what to do about it having regard to all the circumstances.

(Paragraph 98)

So, let's see if we have this straight. If I had to rule on the issue of interference by the employer, I would have found that Blasdell had a point. But I won't rule on the issue because the employer didn't identify it as an issue. I asked them for an explanation at the hearing and they gave me one that didn't hold a lot of water. I won't explore that any further (gawd only knows where it might take me). Instead I will address a related issue: If the union goes along with the employer's unlawful conduct, is that a breach of the duty to fair representation to which my answer - without any supporting rationale - is NO! As long as the union evaluated the pro's and con's of engaging in illegal activity with the employer, they're cool in my court. Conceivably, all manner, shape and form of corrupt activity against union members is now legitimized in the Province of Ontario.

On what the LRB thinks about you:

Why on earth would such a proposition be put forward by the Vice Chair of the agency that is responsible for administering the rights of working people? The only possible answer that makes any sense at all is because the people who administer the laws that govern working people consider working people a lower form of life, not deserving of anything more than the right to be exploited by the masters of the business community and their union overseers. That becomes very apparent in the Vice Chair's ensuing comments about why it was OK for the union to not consult the members about these negotiations, which would result in large-scale changes to their collective agreement.

... the union rationally believed the company that it was not prepared to discuss other alternatives. Absent any suggestion that the complainants have anything to add to the discussion (like an alternative other than the obvious one of fighting Loblaws), other than they disagree with the amendments, the members had nothing to say which could assist Local 1000a.

(Paragraph 100)

How the Vice Chair knows what the members might or might not have contributed or might have wanted is a mystery. We can only conclude that he concurs with the union that their views were not worthy of consideration and, even if they might have had some views about what course of action their union should take, the only views that mattered were those of their union's leaders - so why waste any time on them.

In my view, the obligation to consult only arises when employees have something meaningful to offer - as in normal collective agreement negotiations. In this case, the members' interests were entirely predictable and were taken into account. Local 1000a knew very well that many members would be against the deal and the others would be in favour. But in spite of that inevitable opposition, it determined that amending the collective agreement was the best strategy.

(Paragraph 101)

Working people have nothing meaningful to offer their union in relation to decisions that will affect them for the rest of their working lives. Their views do not deserve an audience. They have nothing to contribute. You can't put it anymore callously than Vice Chair McLean has put it. Working people are not people - they are the union's property, union appendages. And just in case anyone reads this decision and has trouble seeing their way clear to Vice Chair McLean's conclusions, the learned gatekeeper closes with a nice bit of editorializing that completely redefines the issue (to something other than what was raised in Blasdell's complaint) and gives those who have been able to read to the end without gagging and are just not "in the spirit", something to feel warm and reassured about:

The real issue here is not that employees were denied the opportunity to be consulted. The issue is that the applicant and other employees dislike the deal and desire the opportunity to demonstrate that a majority of employees are also opposed. The remedy for such employees is at the ballot box, at the appropriate time, not in an application under section 74 of the Act.

(Paragraph 103)

Well Vice Chair, we beg to differ about what the real issue is. The real issue is that employees were denied the opportunity to be consulted. Ben Blasdell says that repeatedly in his complaint. What he seeks is a remedy that would allow them what they were denied in the first place. The ballot box? You yourself said that these workers have no access to a ballot box. So quit trying to snow us. Unfortunately for the gate keeping profession, there is no truth to the myth that we can't read or that we can't reason or that we can't think!

Visions of the future:

Would anything have changed had a consultation occurred? I am satisfied that it would not have. First, I accept Local 1000a's position that, despite this application, there is substantial support for their strategy among the membership (how do you know this?). The deal is a good one under the circumstances, particular for current employees, and that fact has likely been recognized (how do you know this?). Even if there was considerable opposition to the amendments I think it likely that Local 1000a would not have changed its strategy. It had put considerable thought into this problem and had determined what it believed was the best course of action. It had consulted with divisional officers. Such conduct is the opposite of "arbitrary" and is consistent with s. 74 of the Act.

(Paragraph 106)

In his godlike wisdom, the Vice Chair sees the future. It's the future according to the unholy trinity whose role as the masters of the workplace he is paid to legitimize: Employers, unions and governors - masters, overseers and virtuous gods - whose exploitation of working people should be welcomed and understood as "a good deal". Better yet, he has broken new ground that will help usher in the future more efficiently. By defining blatantly arbitrary conduct as "the opposite of arbitrary", he's given legions of gatekeepers a bigger, better adjudicative whip to wield over the next batch of persnickety working stiffs who get too big for their britches.

Before leaving these issues the Board wishes to comment on the underlying reason for this application: the applicant's (and his supporters') fundamental disagreement with the union's strategy of agreeing to concessions and not fighting the employer to preserve exiting wage levels. The applicant's agent asserted in the strongest terms that the union should have fought the company, and that it ought not to have succumbed to the company's "empty" threats. Of course neither the Board nor any of the participants to these proceedings can tell what the future will hold. However, one thing is clear: the trade union took the route which is most likely to protect its members' jobs. If the trade union fought the company on this issue and the applicant is wrong about its ability to compete with Wal-Mart and other lower cost competitors, then thousands of the union's members' jobs would be at risk. On the other hand if the applicant is right and this was just a ploy by Loblaws to extract wage concessions to raise its profit margins the proof will be in the pudding when the company releases its profit figures. IN that case, no jobs will be lost and the union will be in a position at the next round of collective agreement negotiations to reclaim the concessions made (and more). Under such circumstances, the Board sees nothing unwise or improper with the union's decision.

(Paragraph 109)

The UFCW has a history of concession bargaining. From one end of the continent to the other - it has bargained concessions in circumstances similar to these. Time after time, the proof of profit has been in the pudding (or rather, in the press). Jobs have continued to be lost; demands for further concessions have followed. At no time has the union reclaimed those concessions. What a lot of unholy crap. That's the future that the modern day masters and their union henchmen have in mind for you. McLean's decision paves the road with a lot of good intentions.

People, it's time to rid ourselves of the illusions that are served up for us by the masters of the workplace. Rights, representation and respect exist for us in theory or, at best, on paper.

This decision is a wake up call for working people. Joining a union - unless it is one that is inherently and rigorously democratic - is a waste of your time. Sign a card, get certified and you will become nothing more than a chattel, exploitable for any reasons your masters see fit and unable to escape for the union you've got. How democratic is that?

It's time to begin the emancipation of working people. Unions of the people, for the people are real unions. Those that don't fit this description are nothing than management tools.

MFD on Freedom for Our People

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