The Template for Canadian Labour Relations Since The Second World War
During 1945, a bitter struggle for Union recognition was fought by the United Auto Workers against Ford in Canada at a main production facility in Windsor, Ontario. The Union demands included recognition, dues check offs and mandatory membership for Bargaining Unit employees. At the time, the Unions spent a lot of time and effort collecting the dues from each member individually. The strike dragged on for many months without resolution.
In response to a police threat to force open the picket line around the plant power plant, Local 200 introduced a novel tactic. Those members who had cars, parked, blocking the streets around the power plant. Private cars entered the area and became trapped in the traffic jam. Unionized city buses joined in the “park-in siege” which grew to entangle 20 blocks around the plant.
The police declined to intervene and when negotiations were restarted on November 23rd, the siege was lifted and the power plant reopened, with the agreement of the Local, to prevent cold weather damage. On December 16, after 99 days of the picket line, a Provincial and Federal government proposal to end the strike, with binding arbitration, was accepted by the Union. Justice Ivan Rand was appointed as arbitrator.
Justice Rand’s decision struck a balance, ordering compulsory dues check off but not compulsory Union membership. In return for secure funding, the Union was required to “be responsible”, not to support wild cat work stoppages during the life of the contract and to conduct strike votes by secret ballot. You can read Justice Rand’s judgement here.
The Rand Formula has become the basis for labour relation in Canada since the Second World War. The provisions are part of the labour code in many provinces and are practiced throughout the country.
There have been two challenges to the Rand Formula since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was proclaimed in 1982. The first focused on the political initiatives of Unions which may not reflect the politics of some members. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected this appeal, recognizing Unions have the right to have a political program to pursue the broad interests of its members, such as reforming the Labour Code.
A second challenge came in Quebec where construction work was restricted to those with trade certifications only available through the Unions. Even though this legislation went a step further than the Rand Formula by mandating membership as well as dues check off, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 margin, ruled the provincial regulations did not violate the charter. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007, regarding BC Health Services, has further strengthened Union Rights by making the right to bargain collectively a Charter Right. You can read more about the challenges to the Rand Formula here.