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.
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!