Local 793 members need to become better informed and more politically active in order to fend off the right-wing policies being proposed by the provincial and federal Conservatives, business manager Mike Gallagher told a general membership meeting Sept. 22.
“We’ve got to get together to weather the storm that’s coming,” he said. “We need to reach out to people, even if they’re not part of a union, to realize the threat facing them.”
Gallagher said both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and provincial Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak have got it wrong in trying to bring in right-to-work (RTW) legislation, and for proof one only has to look to the U.S. to see how such laws have impacted that country.
He said both the federal and provincial Conservatives have a knack of making their anti-union laws sound appealing and a good idea.
However, he said, RTW legislation would mean individuals could opt out of paying union dues and erode the ability of unions like the Operating Engineers to provide good pension and benefit plans.
It is “absolute fiction” that RTW legislation is about helping people, he said, noting they are really laws that have been given to politicians by corporations.
Gallagher said wages have decreased in U.S. states where RTW legislation has been introduced and, given time, it will destroy unions.
If Hudak has his way, Gallagher noted, he will turn Ontario into a RTW province.
“Nothing is more serious than Hudak winning an election,” he said.
He noted that Hudak’s only way of getting support is by attacking unions.
Union officers are trying to make the union better, Gallagher said.
However, he added, “with the stroke of a pen” Hudak could send unions back to the days before the Rand formula was implemented.
He said Canadian locals and members must wake up and fight back against RTW legislation, much like unions have done in the U.S.
He noted that IUOE Local 150 recently overturned RTW legislation in Indiana and locals in Canada should learn from that.
“We have to be as vigilant as the U.S. locals.”
He also called on national union organizations like the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and national building trades office to step up their efforts to combat RTW legislation.
“We need the CLC and the building trades nationally to wake up and mobilize workers. We have to wake up to the imminent threat that is on our border.”
During the meeting, Gallagher showed a video that was made by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. The video depicted what’s happening in some U.S. states that have RTW legislation.
Afterwards, Gallagher said there is no case that can be made for RTW legislation.
“We have to make sure that’s not the reality going forward.”