Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rand Formula Under Attack

The other day I wrote a post about Bill C-377, ostensibly a private member's bill put forward by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert that would subject unions to unprecedented scrutiny. It is, in fact, a bill being guided by the Prime Minister's Office.

In his column today, The Star's Thomas Walkom says that the real target of the bill is the Rand Formula, which requires all employees in a bargaining unit that has democratically chosen a union to pay union dues.

Initiated in 1946, it was designed as a counterbalance to the power of the employer and as a means of ensuring that those receiving the advantage of union working conditions and pay could not simply opt out in order to avoid paying union dues. All in all, most would say it is balanced and desirable.

Everyone, that is, except the extreme right-wing, i.e., the Harperites, who are using this bill as a thinly disguised union-busting tactic. Writes Walkom:

On the face of it, Bill C-377 makes no sense. It argues that because workers can treat union dues as tax deductions, the general public has the right to know — in exacting detail — how unions spend their money.

Indeed, as drafted, the bill is remarkably intrusive. It would require the names and addresses of anyone who gives or receives more than $5,000 from a union. Unions would also have to categorize how and why they spent their funds.

As he goes on to point out, there are many tax breaks offered to professional organizations such as doctors and lawyers, as well as the executives paid in stock options, all of which cost the treasury countless sums. Yet none of them are being subjected to the kind of scrutiny Bill C-377 would impose on unions.

Walkom suggests the ultimate purpose behind the bill:

The unstated aim of this bill is to provide ammunition to politicians, like Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak, who would scrap the Rand formula and introduce U.S.-style right-to-work laws designed to sap unions.

The Conservatives’ working assumption is that once Canadians see how unions spend their money, they will be scandalized. It is another round in a sophisticated public relations war designed to portray union leaders as undemocratic pork-choppers.

Given the irrational contempt and envy much of the public feels toward unions, it seems likely that if passed, the bill will achieve its nefarious intent, and we will all literally be the poorer for it.


  1. As Walkom suggests, Lorne. trade unionists must to more than object. They must be cleaver.

  2. Perhaps a new campaign is in order, Owen, to remind the public of what unions are responsible for.

  3. The Rand Formula was and is one of the greatest pieces of democracy that ever happened. Why should workers who benefit from the provisions of the Collective Agreement and belonging to a Union, not have to pay for those benefits that are hard won negotiated battles?

    Mike Moeller

  4. I can only conclude, Mike, that we have a very short collective memory; that deficit makes it all too easy for the demagogues in our midst to exert undue influence over our thinking.