In early January, my colleague Jason Foster and I wrote about Alberta’s efforts to hamstring its unions through oppressive union financing laws. The gist of the issue is that unions will now have to categorize their expenditures as either core (basically bargaining and grievance work) or non-core (lobbying, political activity). Then unions will need to go each year to each member to get them to agree to pay dues related to non-core activities.
This policy will reduce the funding available to unions to influence labour laws and public policy, both by giving members an opt out and by forcing unions to expend more money to collect their existing dues. The political goal is to reduce an important source of public opposition to the UCP government.
It is unclear how this is going to play out. Unions may decide to just label all activities as “core activities” on the argument that everything a union does provides benefits to members in the workplace. Or they may just ignore this requirement. Or they may challenge it in court.
This policy reflects a protracted attack by the government of Jason Kenney on workers and their unions. This has included making it harder to certify a new union, binding the hands of public-sector employers with secret bargaining mandates, passing laws that allow the government to declare pickets illegal, and requiring unions to get permission to picket certain worksites.
Since it appears the UCP will be a one-and-done government, it is hard to say how much impact these dues changes will have before they are likely repealed.
-- Bob Barnetson