‘Right to work’ laws are the wrong choice for Canadians: OFL

New report disputes recent findings on worker choice laws in Canada

The Fraser Institute’s recent study on worker choice laws — commonly known as ‘right to work’ policies — examined the effects of these laws in the United States and applied those findings to British Columbia and Ontario. The study found laws prohibiting mandatory union dues and membership lead to economic and employment growth.

The Fraser Institute’s report, Implications of U.S. Worker Choice Laws for British Columbia and Ontario, suggested a ‘right to work’ policy would increase manufacturing output in British Columbia and Ontario by about $200 million and $4 billion, respectively. The report also estimated that economic output would increase by $3.9 billion in British Columbia and by $11.8 billion in Ontario. Total employment was predicted to grow in British Columbia and Ontario by almost 19,000 and 57,000, respectively.

But the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)’s report on worker choice laws and their potential effects on the Ontario economy disputes the claims made by the Fraser Institute.

“Anti-worker laws don’t create jobs, they simply force workers to work for less in order to compete with their counterparts across borders and state lines,” OFL president Sid Ryan said. “It sets off a race to the bottom that is driven by corporate greed and can only be kept in check by strong opposition from workers themselves. Unions provide that crucial counter-balance.”

The OFL’s report, Working for Less: The Coming Threat to Union Security in Ontario, was released publicly on Sept. 3 after being produced in February as part of a worker education program.

“We are releasing our report today to coincide with a Fraser Institute report that calls for limiting workers’ right and weakening union protection,” Ryan said. “The arguments against labour unions and workers’ rights are ideological, not empirical. American evidence proves that reducing union representation does not lead to a stronger economy. In fact, in the decade following the passage of laws that undermined union representation, 50,000 manufacturing jobs were shed in Oklahoma and over one-third were lost in North Carolina.”

The OFL report cautions against anti-unions laws that drive down wages and limit the rights of workers. Highlighting studies by the University of Notre Dame, Princeton and the University of Nevada, the report cites the serious economic ramifications experienced by ‘right to work’ states in the U.S.

“Unions aren’t just good for workers, they are an economic driver. Across Canada, union membership delivers an average wage increase of $5.11 more an hour, while in Ontario, the union advantage is $6.19 more an hour. Unions have created Canada’s middle class and they bring economic stability for everyone,” Ryan said.

The OFL, based in Toronto, represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario.

“If the corporate and conservative backers of the Fraser Institute truly had the welfare of all Canadians in mind,” Ryan said. “They would recognize that strong unions raise the bar – for all workers – on wages, benefits and working conditions, and that families with decent livelihoods have more money to spend on services and small businesses that help the economy thrive. Unfortunately, Canada’s economic welfare isn’t the Fraser Institute’s priority, corporate profit is.”

For more information about this story, look for in-depth coverage from Sabrina Nanji in the Sept. 16 print issue of Canadian Labour Reporter.

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