Expert analysis on the attack on workers' rights to join a union

The following public intellectuals and experts expose the use of Orwellian-named 'Right to Work' laws by conservative and US Republican activists as a cynical political attack against workers' rights and organized labour. This list of articles is specific to the fight to defend the Rand Formula in Canada, the right of unions to be political agents as part of defending their members interests through bargaining and political work, and the problems with current and rumoured changes to Canadian labour laws.

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Economists and Academics


Christopher Schenk

(Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)


Jim Stanford

(Chief Economist for CAW and Canadian Political Economist)


Andrew Jackson

(Packer Chair York University; Political Economist; Broadbent Institute Fellow)


Robert Reich

(American political economist, professor, author; Economic Advisor to Clinton)


Jason Russell

(Assistant professor at Empire State College, State University of New York)


Justin Paulson

(Assistant professor of sociology and political economy at Carleton University)

  • Hudak’s right-to-work would lead to labour chaos: economics expert “For all the rhetoric of companies being able to pick up and move to the ‘most attractive’ locales, it’s mostly smoke-and-mirrors, just as the outcries about outsourcing in the 1990s were pretty much red herrings,” Paulson said. McDonald’s can’t have an Ontario customer’s burger flipped in Mexico. “Most companies, and certainly most factory operations, are not able to move. And there are all sorts of factors at play - unionization is just one among a great many - in choosing where to establish a new business operation.”


Mike Moffatt

(Assistant Professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business)


Center for Economic and Policy Research


Center for American Progress


US Economic Policy Institute

(Progressive economic institute: Gordon Lafer, Marty Wolfson, Andrea Orr, and Nancy Guyott)


Government Officials


1995 Alberta Joint Review of Right-to-Work

Chaired by Elaine McCoy

In 1995 the Alberta Legislature decided by a 32-31 vote to appoint a Joint Review Committee to look into the possibility of introducing RTW legislation into that province. The JRC was headed by their former Minister of Labour, Elaine McCoy. McCoy now sits as an Independent (Progressive Conservative) Senator.

The Alberta Committee’s final report recommends, unanimously, against the introduction of RTW in Alberta for a number of reasons. Some of the most interesting are the following:

  • There is no conclusive proof that RTW legislation creates a competitive advantage or cure a competitive disadvantage.
  • The evidence suggests that unions may raise, rather than reduce, productivity.
  • RTW legislation in the US has had no effect on the incidence of strikes and lockouts.
  • Labour stability (peace) is a key factor in economic prosperity.
  • Unions are structurally democratic institutions.

The Minister of Labour who requested this study was Stockwell Day and one of the pro-RTW submissions made to the committee came from Rob Anders, then Alberta Project Director for Canadians Against Forced Unions, now Federal Conservative MP for Calgary West, who is also known to have worked for the Republican party in the US.

Independent Progressive Conservative Senator Elaine McCoy says Bill C-377 should “…/not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force”… “for a thousand years … we have been slowly evolving until we have a society that is fair to one and all. … This bill violates all of those principles. It violates a 1,000-year-old tradition. It violates the Canadian code of fairness. I think this bill should be forcefully, forcefully rejected, and I trust we will do that when the time comes.”

Hugh Segal

(Conservative Senator)

  • *Views of Bill C-377 as un-Canadian and a political attack on unions.* /“As a Tory, I believe that society prospers when different views about the public agenda, on the left and the right, are advanced by different groups, individuals and interests. Debate between opposing groups in this chamber, in the other place and in broader society is the essence of democracy. Limiting that debate as to scope and breadth is never in the long-term interest of a free and orderly society…”/



Journalists and Commentators

Lawyers and Judges

  • Ivan Rand (Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ivan Rand) See: The Rand Decision (1946) for quick overview. One of the best quotes: "…those who control capital are scarcely in a position to complain of the power of money in the hands of labour."

  • David Doorey (York University Law)\\ Senior Tory Senator Lambasts Conservatives for Politically Motivated Attacks on Unions

  • Gerald A. Lucas (Co-Chair, Alberta Labour Relations Board 2009) "Now that the Supreme Court has concluded that the protection of freedom of association, afforded by [Section 2 (d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms], extends to the process of collective bargaining, and that the payment of union dues has been recognized as part of the freedom of association, the obvious conclusion is that the continued absence from the code of a statutory Rand formula is a violation of s. 2 (d) that can only be remedied by government action," “It follows that the inability of the ODF workers to bargain collectively is linked to the absence from the Code of a statutory Rand formula. The union has demonstrated to our satisfaction that this absence is solely attributable to government and is a violation of the fundamental right of these workers under s. 2 (d) right to bargain collectively.”


Labour Union Analysis

  • *Toronto and York Region Labour Council Statement on Right to Work* “Billionaires routinely fund anti-union think tanks and political groups, setting the stage for legislative change that strengthens employer control and weakens unions. The passage of right-to-work in Michigan, the birthplace of industrial unionism, has sent shockwaves across both sides of our border. Conservative MP’s are talking about doing the same here, and Tory leader Tim Hudak has made it part of his election platform.”

  • Ontario Federation of Labour Rights @ Work Campaign Page/ /The OFL will be producing reports, factsheets, and workshop materials, that will comprise a toolkit for popular education on the role and value of labour unions and collective worker action.

  • Working for Less: Ontario Federation of Labour’s Report on the Importance of the Rand Formula “The reforms that Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are proposing in Ontario are similar to legislation that has been passed in many U.S. states. President Obama and many others have correctly stated that this legislation only grants workers the “right- to-work for less.” Much can be learned from the American experience about the impact this type of legislation would have in Ontario. Most certainly, Ontarians could expect lower wages, fewer benefits, and weaker unions. This “work for less” legislation is part of a broader agenda in which profits for a few are prioritized over the well-being of all Ontarians. Driven by an ideological anti-union agenda, right-wing politicians are pushing forward these reforms under the guise of worker “choice” and “freedom.””

  • *Sid Ryan:Tories Attack Rand Formula to Silence Workers* “When it comes to influencing public policy, workers are again at a great disadvantage. In stark contrast to the paltry five per cent of election financing that came from unions between 2004 and 2011, corporate Canada contributed a whopping 40 percent of all election funds, including $26 million to the Conservative Party.”

  • *Ontario Federation of Labour’s President’s Report on Right to Work* “For many canadian workers, the dangers of this american trend were brought home last year when electro-Motive Diesel in London, ontario was bought out by the international corporate giant caterpillar, which promptly moved production to Muncie, indiana after it’s skilled and productive canadian workforce rejected a 50 percent wage cut. in Indiana, where anti-union laws prevail, these diesel train workers earn only $13.50 an hour.

  • *Daniel Legere of CUPE responds to Telegraph-Journal’s attack on their political activity* “First and foremost, political decisions affect our members at work and in their daily lives and CUPE has a responsibility to respond. We proudly accept this responsibility. Yes, we continue to ask the Alward government to speak up on EI cuts, as other Premiers have. If unemployed New Brunswickers cannot access EI when out of work, it falls on the province to assist these individuals. The silence in our view from Premier Alward is disconcerting to us.”

  • *Robyn Benson (PSAC): Counterpoint: ‘Right to work’ is right to work for less* “What Mr. Poilievre is wrong about is that workers would somehow benefit if the Conservative government did away with that formula. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is legally bound to represent all employees covered by our collective agreements, which is why all employees pay dues. Taking that away would destroy our ability to effectively represent workers and maintain the collective agreements they rely on. That would seem to be Mr. Poilievre’s objective. This is an attempt to import an American idea designed to undermine the rights of the people unions represent.”

  • *United Food and Commercial Workers: Right to Work Laws are Not the Canadian Way* “The northward spread of right-to-work laws and the suppression of collective bargaining rights in America are clearly having an economic and political influence on this country. For example, earlier in the year Caterpillar locked out 465 workers in London, Ontario, and demanded that they take a fifty percent pay cut. When the workers refused the company’s insulting proposal, Caterpillar shuttered the plant and relocated to Indiana one day after the state passed right-to-work legislation.”

  • *Alberta Teachers’ Association (1995)\\ *“In our view, right-to-work is primarily a social issue. As an economic issue it has more to do with wealth distribution than with wealth creation. It has little to do with creating an advantage for all Albertans and everything to do with creating a financial advantage for some. It is nothing but trickle-down economics trying to make the argument that the marketplace should dominate all social relationships.”

  • *AFL-CIO Statistics Comparing anti-union “Right-to-Work” states and those with union-neutral laws.* /“Extremist groups, right-wing politicians and their corporate backers want to weaken the power of workers and their unions through so-called right to work for less laws. Their efforts are a partisan political ploy that undermines the basic rights of workers.”/

  • *UK TUC: Anti-union fight in Michigan: Robert Reich and Martin Luther King* “These laws allow freeloading and will drive a race to the bottom, where workers can work for less and accept worse conditions than unionised co-workers. Originating in southern racist attempts to divide workers, they have just been forced through in Michigan without public debate.” //

  • Right to Work is Wrong Indiana

  • Right to Work is Wrong for Michigan