This paper spatially located 333,881 unionized workers in Alberta. As Table 1 suggests, a disproportionate percentage of unionized workers are found in the province’s seven urban centres. Overall, urban residents are more than twice as likely as rural residents to be union members.
Further, most unionized rural workers are found in large, public-sector bargaining units. Unionized rural workers in the private sector are typically employed by a small number of large employers with industrial-style operations, such as meat-processing plants, refineries, mills, and mines.
Interviews with trade unionists suggested three broad explanations for low union density across rural Alberta:
- reluctance by rural workers to unionize,
- reluctance by unions to organize small bargaining units, and
- a regulatory structure that impeded organizing.
-- Bob Barnetson