EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Oct. 24, 2016) - A letter sent to Aramark workers at the new Rogers Arena is a case study in why Alberta's laws around unionization need to be reformed.
The letter, which offers "reasons to refuse to join a union," was posted to the websites imgur.com and reddit.com last week, and sparked a backlash on social media.
"Workers should be free to form a union without facing reprisals, coercion, or undue influence from their employers," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "This letter is clearly an attempt by Aramark to pressure their workers not to unionize. Clearly, they don't want their workers to have the strength of solidarity when they're negotiating for wages, for safer working conditions, and for fair workplace standards."
Alberta's overly complex and finicky rules about unionization give employers unnecessary opportunities to sway the process. Under the current Alberta labour code, workers who are seeking to organize a union in their workplace must first get at least 40 per cent of the employees in the workplace to sign a membership application in favour of the Union. After that application is filed, and after several days and/or weeks pass, employees must then vote again on their choice at a formal vote that is usually held on the Employer's worksite with a manager and union representative as scrutineers.
"Having a second vote, after most of the workers have already made it clear that they want to be represented by a union, gives an opportunity for businesses like Aramark to do exactly what they're doing with this letter - to misinform workers, to put pressure on them, and to scare them," McGowan said. "And usually, the employers who are most willing to engage in these scare tactics are the employers whose workers most need a union to defend their rights."
The Alberta Federation of Labour has long called for labour legislation that allows for a one-step voting process that doesn't leave workers open to intimidation by hostile employers. This type of certification is in place in Manitoba and New Brunswick, while Ontario allows this type of certification in some industries.
"In light of Aramark's intimidation attempt, we are calling on the Government of Alberta to open up the Labour Code and to examine the ways in which it can be made to work better for everyday Albertans," McGowan said. "It has been more than 30 years since a comprehensive review was undertaken. The existing code is deeply flawed, and needs to be brought into the 21st century."