The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour says he’s seen already drafted legislation that will inhibit unions’ ability to advocate on political issues.
Gil McGowan says labour leaders across the province were emailed letters by the provincial government last Friday asking them to meet this weekend, and that has them fearing the UCP will be making changes sooner rather than later.
McGowan said he was leaked legislation that would force unions to get a mandate from their members on any political activism, giving workers the option to prevent their dues from supporting lobbying efforts.
The Alberta Federation of Labour represents 175,000 workers across the province in both the public and private sector.
McGowan said unions have campaigned on issues including higher minimum wage, childcare and employee safety standards.
He calls the proposed changes undemocratic and unconstitutional.
“These policies won’t just undermine unions and they won’t just affect union members. They’ll undermine all workers in this province and the entire middle class,” McGowan said.
“We will fight them in the courts, the ballot box and in the streets, if necessary.”
Alberta’s Labour Minister, Jason Copping, said there is no such legislation at this point.
“As part of our platform, we said that we would deal with the issue of workers having to pay in to support political parties and political issues. We’re consulting right now with unions and employers on how best to implement that campaign promise and after we hear back on the consultations, we will take a look at how we’re going to move forward on that.”
McGowan pointed out that the potential changes would only impact unions and not corporations and said it’s ironic that a government vowing to cut red tape is creating more hurdles for workers.
“If we have to go back to our members every time we want to run one of these campaigns, A) It will take a lot of time, so we won’t be able to respond quickly and B) they understand that a lot of people, if given the option, will say: ‘Someone else will take care of that.'”
McGowan says the courts have constitutionally protected the unions’ rights to advocate on issues impacting the workforce but fears the UCP could invoke the notwithstanding clause to enact the legislation despite that.