Card Check: Canada is the Model, But a Failed, Unpopular Model

By November 5, 2009Labor Unions

Smart piece in Forbes.com by John Endean, president of the American Business Conference, on the Employee Free Choice Act and labor policy in Canada. Canada’s more unionized than the United States, so it’s organized labor’s idea of a model — sort of. From “Canadianized Labor Law?”

[Would] “Canadianizing” our National Labor Relations Act revitalize the U.S. labor movement’s prospects? Don’t be so sure. In fact, despite the more favorable legal environment, unions in Canada face many of the same difficulties as their U.S. counterparts. And–a well-kept secret on this side of the border–many of the union-friendly legal arrangements that have met with resistance in the U.S. debate have not been a hit with the Canadian public either.

Endean note Canada’s labor law is largely determined at the provincial level, and six of the 10 provinces still require a secret ballot.

Canada also provides insight about binding arbitration and “quickie elections” — we call them “ambush elections” — that some U.S. labor leaders are pitching as a substitute to card check.

Endean concludes that even rigging the system (our term), organized labor has still only achieved 18 percent unionization of the private-sector employees. We think the U.S. labor bosses would love that percentage since it means all the more dues money with which to practice politics. Still, Endean says:

A union movement that represents only 16% of private sector workers–and this despite a long-favorable legal regime–cannot really claim to speak with the voice of the Canadian working public.

For unions in Canada, favorable legal arrangements have been no substitute for the need to achieve real, earned popularity. Perhaps there is a lesson there for American unionists as well.

(Hat tip: Walter Olson, Point of Law.)

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