Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oh Brother, where art thou union dues going?

Before I start this post, I want to make something very clear: I have nothing against the tens of thousands of unionized workers in the province of Alberta. I know, after being part of a family business that employed members of two of the finest unions in the province (Ironworkers Local 720 and Operating Engineers Local 955), that they are hard working men and women who are proud of their craft and believe in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

Their union leaders, on the other hand, leave much to be desired.

Third parties can certainly have their place in an election. It is perfectly reasonable for a group with a special interest to highlight said interest before or even during a campaign. The ongoing ad campaign from organized labour, however, goes far beyond that.

The big union ad campaign mentions nothing about wanting to change Alberta's labour laws or improve workplace conditions. Instead, for the first time in Alberta, we are seeing organized labour actively trying to take down a government.

The Merit Contractors Association has been diligently pursuing this issue, and rightly so. Their most recent ad campaign (see below) brings to light the eerie similarities between this campaign and the campaign waged in Ontario against their PC Party and in favour of Dalton McGuinty's Liberals.

Mr. McGuinty thanked his union leader buddies for their support by re-writing Ontario labour laws to make them far more favourable to the big union bosses. As the Merit news release (also below) points out, among McGuinty's changes was the removal of the right to a secret ballot during unionization votes.

I can't help but wonder if Kevin Taft has the same deal cooked up with big labour's leaders here in Alberta? The pieces certainly fit together:

Ontario/U.S.-style attack campaign? CHECK.

Massive increase in union donations to the Liberal Party? CHECK.

Vague Liberal platform committments to update the labour code? CHECK.

So what's your agenda, Kevin? Are you and the Liberals, people who have been screaming from the rafters that democracy is being subverted in Alberta, planning to remove such a basic right as the secret ballot from Alberta workers?

I don't expect a straight answer from Professor Taft, lest he let the cat out of the bag. Nonetheless, Albertans should be very weary of this unholy alliance. Big union leaders and Kevin Taft have an agenda that suits them, rather than the rights of our workforce.

In the meantime, kudos to the crew at Merit for keeping this in the spotlight.

February 27, 2008 - For Immediate Release-

Contractors Group says Union Leaders' Secret Agenda will hurt Albertans

Edmonton- Edmonton-based Merit Contractors Association of Alberta launched a second ad campaign challenging union leaders fronting the “Albertans for Change” coalition to come clean about their secret agenda for Alberta.

Merit’s campaign responds to new attack ads against the Stelmach government from the labour coalition headed up by leaders of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the Alberta Building Trades Council (ABTC).

In Edmonton, Stephen Kushner, President of Merit Contractors Association, stated, “For the first time in Alberta’s history, union leaders are aggressively spending mandatory union dues to try to unseat a provincial government with expensive American style attack ads. These ads make no mention of Alberta’s labour laws or workplaces. Merit believes union leaders have a secret hidden agenda that if implemented will not be good for Albertans.”

The Merit ads charge “Albertans for Change” is nothing more than an Albertan version of the “Working Families” special interest organization set up by Ontario union leaders to help Ontario Liberals gain power in 2003 and get re-elected in 2007.

“The payback costs in Ontario were high – especially in the construction industry,” says Kushner. After being elected, Dalton McGuinty’s government rewrote Ontario’s labour laws that, among other things, took away the right of construction workers to have a secret ballot vote on unionization elections.

The Albertans for Change ads say nothing about changing Alberta’s labour laws. However, the legislative proposals of the organizations financing the ads call for similar changes to be made in Alberta. Kushner noted, “This election is similar in tone to recent Ontario elections when labour laws were not debated. Yet, after reading the platforms of both Opposition parties, it’s clear they have bought into the union leaders demands. Albertans should know this information when they cast their ballots on March 3 and not let union leaders tell them how to vote.”


For more information, contact:
Stephen Kushner
Merit Contractors Association
Tel: (780) 455-5999

Bill Stewart
Merit Contractors Association
Tel: (780) 455-5999


  1. Even better, why are AUPE's dues going to fund this anti-gov campaign?!

  2. Great job! Union members need to hold their "bosses" to account. Why is the union the "boss", and not the company that hires them?

    I talked to a man from Quebec who came here because the unions in Quebec are so powerful, it's who you know that gets you a job. He couldn't believe how easy it was to get work here in Alberta.

    Unions once had a purpose, but they have become too political. Buzz is a good example.

  3. Oh, and don't get me wrong, I'm FORCED to belong to a union, but they would never get away with spending our fees on garbage ads like the ones we are seeing.

  4. What happened to the PC Youth Ad post?

  5. Re: the PCYA ad, the link doesn't work anymore so I didn't see much point in keeping it up.

  6. BR, if you are so fond of unionized workers why are you quick to criticize their democratically elected leaders? If I recall, you polemically stated a few weeks ago that Kevin Taft was calling Albertans stupid for electing the Tories. Therefore, according to your (seriously flawed) logic you are in essence calling union members stupid for electing their "big union bosses." Or does your unique brand of logical reasoning only apply to Liberal party leaders?

  7. eh,
    I don't recall any union boss campaigning for his job saying that she/he was going to use members' union dues to bring down a government. Most members (possibly naively) think their dues are going towards effective labour representation and to bank "strike pay" in the event a work stoppage is called for. I doubt that a majority - if a SECRET BALLOT were held - would support the use of their money for some expensively priced anti-government ads.

  8. "their democratically elected leaders?"

    I seem to recall being part of a stupid union once that only a very few were actually allowed to "vote" for their leaders - and they all had their own agenda. The workers that need representation in unions the most are often the ones not qualified to vote.

  9. The atack ads from the unions might have something to do with the recent trade contract negotions and the ridiculas Alberta legislation that goes with that process. My amazement is why should "Merit" care what they do with their money? Is it to get union members to leave their halls and come work for the "Merit" side of the labor equation?