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The Campaign

Organizing campaigns vary in length. Some take months, some take years. The IATSE will remain committed as long as there are workers who remain interested. Once the employer knows that an organizing campaign is ongoing, you can expect that they will run a counter campaign. With an effective organizing committee, we will be able to quickly refute any misinformation that the employer uses to undermine your support. It is important to anticipate what your employer may do when they find out you’re organizing so that you can withstand the onslaught.

Most employers are not particularly creative in conducting their anti-union campaigns.  They rely on a few common tactics; all based on psychological warfare. This list comes from the website for American Rights At Work, but is equally applicable in Canada:

Seven Sophisticated Unionbuster Techniques

  • Supervisors as Frontline Soldiers: Supervisors, who themselves have no legally protected right to be represented by a union, are manipulated into delivering anti-union letters, speeches, and informal chats prepared by unionbusters, essentially doing the dirty work of the unionbusters and management.  
  • One-on-One Meetings: During organizing drives workers are often forced to attend closed-door or isolated meetings with supervisors.   These aren’t friendly impromptu chats, but well-planned meetings to decipher employees’ feelings about the union and persuade them against the union. 
  • Captive Audience Meetings: So-called ‘captive audience’ meetings are held for employees during work hours to disseminate propaganda against union representation and to attempt to discredit the union.  Employees are almost always required to attend, but union organizers may be intentionally disinvited.  Often, the meetings are rigged so that workers who are already against the union are assigned to ask questions to sow misinformation.
  • Delay: Unionbusters often attempt to delay union representation elections by legal maneuvers so they have more time to implement other tactics needed to increase tension, dissension and the employer’s chance of winning the election.
  • Divide & Conquer: The unionbuster creates opportunities and crafts persuasive messages to make employees feel that there is a tense division among staff concerning the union election.  They may go so far as to pit one group of employees against each other based on job classification, pay rate or any distinction between one part of the bargaining unit and another.
  • Letters, letters, letters: A unionbuster’s specialty is hammering out materials—be it cartoons, leaflets or management correspondence—to make the case against the union.  This material can be posted on bulletin boards at work or mailed to your home.
  • Love offerings: In order to convince employees that they don't need a union, unionbusters may advise clients to provide indirect bribes, like unexpected increases in wages or benefits or ‘feel good’ measures like free food and lottery tickets. Employers will plead that you are all “one big family” that can work out its problems without the interference of an outside third party.

What an Employer May Not Do

Under Canadian law, employers are prohibited from interfering with your right to select a union as your collective bargaining representative.  Below is a list of some of the things that employers are NOT permitted to do, by law:

  1. They cannot promise any benefits to employees to stay out of the union.
  2. They cannot threaten the loss of jobs, income, benefits, or any other compensation you are now receiving if you do support the union.
  3. They cannot threaten to fire you, or fire you, because you support the union.
  4. They cannot attend union meetings.
  5. They cannot treat you differently because they think you are supporting the union.
  6. They cannot transfer you because you are involved with the union.
  7. They cannot take work away from you because you are supporting the union.
  8. They cannot ask you about your opinion of the union.
  9. They cannot ask you whether you are supporting the union.
  10. They cannot ask you how you would vote on union representation.
  11. They cannot ask you at the time you are hired whether or not you belong to a union.
  12. They cannot help you withdraw from union membership.
  13. They cannot tell you there will be a strike.
  14. They cannot tell you they will not deal with the union.

There are many types of employer conduct that are improper, and it would be impossible to list them all, however, generally, while an employer is permitted to express its preference not to be unionized and to communicate facts and opinions to the workers, the employer may not use its dominant position to make overt or subtle threats or promises in regard to conditions of employment or of job security.  This includes threats of adverse consequences for unionizing or discharging union supporters (such as suspending or disciplining workers), but may also include the granting of benefits, raises, or solicitation of grievances - in hopes that workers will decide to keep the union out.