The London, Ontario bus driver’s strike is a very good example of how force and coercion in society can lead to direct and intentional hardship for many and rising costs for all. The strike has seen many people having to seek alternative methods of transportation, many of them quite expensive like taxi cabs, some have complained that they are in jeopardy of losing their jobs due to an inability to get to work. Students are missing school and many have forgone trips that they would normally have taken due to lack of transportation.
The monopoly that the city has on the bus service and the strict municipal regulations over the issuing of taxi licenses is but one aspect of force and coercion in this strike. The Rand Formula is another.
I have a few personal experiences to share with you regarding unions and threats of violence.
When I had just graduated from university I got a job as a clerk in the federal government. I was a casual worker and not a member of the union but as it turned out my direct supervisor who sat across from me happened to be the union head for the entire region. One day he asked two ladies, who were also casual, and me to his desk. He explained that his union was currently in negotiations with the government and it looked as if they may have to go on strike. He then went on to explain that while, as casual employees we were entitled to continue working if the unionized employees went on strike, if we crossed his picket line he would “break our fucking legs.”
It turned out that no strike was called so there was no need to test his threat but he certainly made a lasting impression on me and no doubt on the two young ladies he threatened with physical harm. I had never received a threat of violence against my person since I left high school. To receive it as a grown adult in a business environment by another grown adult was stunning.
The other experience happened here at the University. I was working as a lab technician and while employees such as me had the opportunity to join a voluntary staff association there were many who thought that they would rather force all of us to join the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), or at least force us all to pay dues to CUPE to be more precise. In response, I and another employee with the help of the Freedom Party of Ontario started a group called “UWO Staff for a Cooperative Work Environment”. We delivered pamphlets to the workers involved and spoke at the union certification rally trying to persuade our fellow employees that we were getting along fine with a volunteer association. In fact, I discovered, that over a 10 year period that there had only been 4 grievances with management and three of those four grievances had been decided in favour of the employee, so why force everyone to pay $60 a month to CUPE when a $5 a month voluntary fee to a staff association seemed to be working so well? We eventually won the day and the certification drive failed but not until I received several anonymous calls threatening me with physical harm and even death.
Such threats of violence seem to come naturally to labour organizers.
A few years later there was a teacher strike at the London Board of Education. I was a trustee of the Board at the time and I had the opportunity to speak to one teacher who openly opposed the strike and actually crossed the picket line. Needless to say she was completely ostracized by her fellow teachers from then on. People who she had previously regarded as close colleagues shunned her like a pariah. Once again the coercive and intimidation tactics of the union mentality were at work.
The notion of a union of workers is not in and of itself a bad thing. People have a right to organize and create associations to better negotiate from a position of strength, and by strength I simply mean numbers. In fact I would think that a major employer would much prefer dealing with a single negotiator for a collection of workers rather than dealing with each individual worker. It would simply be more efficient. This would be ideal if it weren’t for the systemic intrusion of force and coercion in today’s labour unions.
The force takes two main forms, the forced compulsion to pay union dues even if you do not wish to be a member of the union (the so-called “Rand Formula”), and the ability of striking workers to effectively commit acts of intimidation, aggression and even violence without fear of intervention by the police.
The Rand Formula is one of the most evil forms of theft existing in Canada today. It is a major source of revenue for the extreme left and their causes. For those who remember, the Merv Lavigne case of 1991 you’ll remember that Mr. Lavigne’s union dues were being spent, not for collective bargaining purposes, but for union activities he did not support, including helping to fund the New Democratic Party. The Supreme Court of the day recognized that the Rand Formula (the compulsory collection of union dues) violated a person’s freedom of association but in typical fashion dismissed it by using the infamous Section One of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A clause I’d like to call the “so what” clause. In effect…you have these rights as outlined in the Charter but…so what?
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
The ability of striking workers to commit acts of violence, harassment, intimidation etc. unchecked by the police has been seen here in Canada on numerous occasions. While I don’t have figures for labour violence in Canada, in the United States there is an organization called the National Institute for Labor Relations Research which documented 8,799 incidents of union violence since 1975. Out of these only 1,963 arrests were made and only 258 convictions found; a conviction rate of barely 3%. The reason given is primarily the powerlessness of local law enforcement in the face of a multitude of strikers. If we were to extrapolate based on Canada’s population being about 10% that of the USA we can assume that Canada has had at least 10% of these cited figures in instances of union violence. Since there are more unionized employees in Canada than in the US the instances are probably higher still.
Could you imagine business owners or management banding together setting bon-fires on union leader’s private property, walking picket lines, impeding traffic and taunting employees? They would be arrested on the spot. Why? There would be less of them. It wouldn’t take much effort on the part of the police and the law does not favour the business owner in labour disputes. It favours the union.
With every forced payment into union coffers by workers who would prefer not to fund such an organization we are witnessing instances of government sanctioned coercion and intimidation millions of times each month. As for physical violence, we are fortunate that this country has not seen many volatile labour disputes in the past few decades compared to earlier in the past century, but we can never forget that as long as we have forced association in unions with the Rand Formula and laws that favour organized labour over business the stage is always set for bloodshed.
(Edited from the original broadcast on Just Right #133 , December 17, 2009)