The end of organized labour?


Federal legislation is forcing all unions to publicly disclose salaries and expenses. And across Ontario teachers are striking over legislation that allows the province to suspend the right to strike and impose collective agreements. And in the US there are a growing number of states bringing in anti-union "Right-To-Work" laws. Our experts weigh in this morning on whether organized labour can survive these economic times.

The end of organized labour? - Panel

As many as 35, 000 of Ontario's teachers weren't in class yesterday, and many others are expected to be absent today. Their union, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, is furious with legislation that allows the province to suspend the right to strike and impose collective agreements.

So far, the province has tolerated the rotating one-day strikes, but the Conservative opposition is encouraging the government to stop them.

Nationally, a new private members' bill will force all unions to disclose salaries and expenses to the public. Bill C-377 passed through the House of Commons last week. Sid Ryan is president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. We aired a clip.

In the U.S., union members are infuriated with new so-called "right to work" legislation. Among other things, new rules forbid agreements that force employees to pay union dues. Opponents say that will undermine union financial stability and bargaining power. Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder says joining 23 other states in "right to work" laws will bring more jobs to the state and empower workers.

With unions being a hot topic on both sides of the border we were joined by two guests with very different perspectives.

Scott Hegerstorm is the state director of the organization Americans for Prosperity-Michigan. He joined us from Lansing, Michigan.

And Kendra Coulter is professor in the Centre for Labour Studies at Brock University. She was in our Toronto studio.

The end of organized labour? - History Professor, York University

The role of organized labour is credited with getting workers better wages, and safer working conditions, even maternity leave. Even workers who never signed a union card benefited from those efforts.

Despite that history, there has been a steady decline in Canadian private sector union membership and the wages of unionized workers have started to lag.

With more on these changes, we were joined in our Toronto studio by Craig Heron, a Professor of History at York University.

This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica deMello and Naheed Mustafa.

Other segments from today's show:

Idle No More gains momentum across Canada

Roy Bourgeois, excommunicated priest on the ordination of women

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