Ontario Labor Law Reforms are Best in Class

Full House

Toronto    It was amazing to be with more than eighty ACORN leaders, members, organizers, friends, supporters, and people who wanted to just know more about the organization and its history at the Steelworkers union hall in Toronto at the special screening of “The Organizer” documentary.  The hunger and passion for change and willingness to do the work to make it happen was an amazing thing to see and hear perhaps best typified when spontaneous applause broke out towards the end of the film when ACORN Canada’s president, Marva Burnett, was on screen.  A slice of organizing heaven to gently place in the keepsakes of our minds forever.

Marva Burnett, president of ACORN Canada introducing THE ORGANIZER

Among the comrades-in-arms attending was our longtime brother and ally, John Cartwright, president of the Toronto & York Labour Council.  Sitting with me for a pint down the street after the film a classic, well-loved local pub, he shared with me some of the details of the new Ontario Labour Laws unions and their allies had managed to get passed in Ontario at the of last year.  Certainly, I was familiar with the huge victory that raised the minimum wage for workers to $14 per hour now and $15 in 2019, but in the hurly burly of work, I had missed some of the huge reforms in basic organizing rights that they had also achieved with the passage of this new legislation.  As John detailed the new reforms for me, they were so wide ranging in their scope that my first task was to doublecheck, pinching myself that I couldn’t have heard him right, but sure enough Ontario might fairly claim to currently claim to have the best organizing rights for workers in North America and perhaps anywhere in the world.

Here is just some of the amazing opportunities that Ontario workers and their unions now have:

  • Card-based certification in specified industries.  The temporary help agency industry, home care and community services industry and building services sector can now win card-check recognition on a showing of over 55% support without a vote!
  • Access to employee list (contact information).  A union with a showing of interest of at least 20 percent of the proposed bargaining unit can obtain an employee list with each employee’s name, phone number and personal email address.
  • Remedial certification. Finding of employer misconduct during an organizing campaign will result in automatic certification of a trade union.
  • First contract mediation/arbitration and time limits. Both unions and employer are now required to use the intensive mediation process before seeking binding first-contract arbitration.
  • Votes. New voting procedures will make voting more accessible to employees.
  • Expanded successor rights. The successor rights provisions will be applied to the re-tendering of building services contracts.
  • Bargaining unit consolidation. Following certification, a union (or employer) may apply to the Board to have a newly certified bargaining unit consolidated with an existing bargaining unit of the employer represented by the same union.
  • Return to work post-strike. The right to return to work during certain bargaining periods will be enforceable through grievance arbitration.
  • Enhanced “just cause” protection. The right not to be disciplined without just cause during certain bargaining periods will be enforceable through grievance arbitration.
  • Fines for LRA violations. Maximum fines for LRA violations will be increased to $5,000 for individuals (up from $2,000) and to $100,000 for organizations (up from $25,000).

This seems like a bunch of well wrapped Christmas presents that were placed under the tree for workers and their unions to begin 2018.   What a golden opportunity to build strong and effective organization!  The challenge now is to make sure we all make the law come alive in the workplace and all of our union halls.

All organizers will want to be Canadians now!

Peggy Cooke getting last minute details together

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Ontario, Canada is Populist Battleground in Coming Elections

Toronto     The late Rob Ford gave steady and staid Toronto an international profile as mayor that wasn’t at the top of the local tourist board’s wish list.  He had ridden into office on a wave of populist discontent from the outer, working and middle-income districts of the city of Toronto, and he rode out on scandals involving not only his pronouncements and policies, some of which were acceptable to ACORN Canada, but also on his stays in drug rehab and videos of him buying crack on the streets, while mayor.  His excuse is a political classic.  He simply shrugged and said he “was hammered.”  His most consistent defender was his brother, an elected member of the Toronto city council at that time.

Now, it’s brother, Doug Ford who has them shaking in their snow boots with his upset win as leader for the Progressive Conservatives (whatever that oxymoron means as a name for a political party) making him a surprise, dark horse candidate for Premier of Ontario, the Canadian province containing more than a quarter of the country’s population as well as the cosmopolitan city of Toronto.  Pundits and opponents are quickly trying to brand Ford as the “Trump of the North,” and though the comparison is not exact, there are some likely similarities.   He has raised the question of revisiting abortion laws for example and his positions on climate change are questionable, but he is no Trump when it comes to immigrants and immigration, enjoying strong support in his races from the recently arrived, known as “new” Canadians in the north.  Observers believe his success in the party primary indicates that he may be able to tap into the feelings of anger and alienation in deindustrialized sections of Ontario where factories have closed and jobs have disappeared.  His record on issues effecting suburban women would not make him their first choice though nor would his tendency to move political closer to the bullying part of the spectrum.  Whatever might be the case, at the least his name on the list guarantees a very different election in the coming months.

The race is set to determine whether the longstanding government of the Liberals will be allowed to continue.  Polls indicate that there is a lot of voter fatigue with their government, although the current premier had been trying to recast herself as a candidate of change, Ford’s presence in the race is likely to disrupt that strategy.  Whether the more progressive, minority New Democrats can take advantage is also an open question.

The Ontario election seems to be worth following as part of the global contest over populism.  There is no question the election is shaping up as perhaps the least Canadian in terms of classic norms and sensibilities that has been seen in the great north in many decades.

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Please enjoy Led Zeppelin’s Immigration Song.

And celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Otis Redding’s Sittin On the Dock of the Bay.

Thanks to KABF.

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