Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that government workers who benefit from a collective agreement but choose not to join the union, are not required to pay union dues. Though the ruling has no direct impact on workers in Ontario, this attack on unions and their ability to fight for better conditions for working people could have ripple effects that cross the border – particularly in light of the election of Doug Ford as premier.

Unlike today’s ruling in the U.S., Canada’s Supreme Court has long upheld mandatory dues check off for all workers who are part of a bargaining unit and benefit from its collective agreement. Put simply – there’s no free lunch.  If you get the benefits, wages and protections that the union bargains for you, you have to pay union dues.

For US government employees who are already under attack, today’s decision is a huge blow. Even workers, perfectly happy with their unions’ work, could make the economic decision to opt out of paying their dues. The financial loss to the unions will severely handicap their ability to protect their members. The end result will be that wages are driven down, pensions and benefits cut, and there will be no one there to defend a member who is unfairly disciplined.

We cannot let something like this happen in Ontario.

Though, Ontario workers do not need to worry about a Supreme Court decision, the provincial government has the ability to bring in legislation to repeal provisions in the Labour Relations Act (LRA) that require mandatory dues check-off. This is something that former Conservative leader Tim Hudak promised to do in the 2014 election and he was resoundingly defeated. Despite the fact that newly elected Premier Doug Ford never raised the issue in the recent election, many fear that he may still try to do what Hudak failed to accomplish. Today’s ruling south of the border could spur him on.

CUPE Ontario and the entire labour movement are on guard for such an attack. We will be ready if any attempts are made to table legislation that undermines the rights of workers and their unions. We cannot allow any government to take us backward and we will do everything in our power to make sure that never happens.

In Solidarity,

Fred Hahn

Candace Rennick