Right-to-Work Legislation

The state of Indiana may soon become the 23rd state in the US to adopt right-to-work legislation. With the Senate Committee having already passed the Bill, it will go to the full Senate. If there are no amendments, the governor of Indiana could be signing the Bill as early as tomorrow (see a news article here).

Back-to-work legislation prohibits contracts between employers and unions which require all employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. As such, this type of legislation gives the non-member employee the option of paying union dues (or not). Supporters of this type of legislation believe that it makes the market more competitive and brings greater investment into the state. Those against right-to-work legislation see it as the government’s attempt to “bust” unions and will lead to lower wages.

In Canada, we have the Rand formula which forces all employees, whether members of the union in place or not, to pay union dues, as it is considered that all employees benefit from the negotiated terms and conditions of employment. The Supreme Court of Canada has already decided that the forced payment of dues does not constitute a violation of the freedom of expression and that if there were a violation of the freedom of association, it was saved by section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. In a day and age where the role of the trade union is questioned, would or should right-to-work legislation have a place in Canadian labour law?

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