Canadian Manufacturing

Fraser Institute, OFL issue conflicting reports on right-to-work laws

As legislation snakes its way through Rust Belt, Fraser Institute says Ontario needs to follow suit

TORONTO—A pair of reports released one day after labour day paint conflicting pictures of the merits of the so-called right-to-work laws and their impact on Canada.

A report from the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) was released to “sound the alarm about the dangers that will befall the Canadian economy and working families if” right-to-work laws—or “worker choice reforms”—are adopted north of the border after growing popularity in the United States.

“Unions aren’t just good for workers, they are an economic driver,” OFL president Sid Ryan said in a statement.

The OFL report was released to coincide with a Fraser Institute report that encouraged the adoption of such legislation in Ontario in order to “remain competitive” with neighbouring states.

Most recently, Michigan adopted the controversial law that bans requirements that non-union private-sector workers pay unions for negotiating contracts.

Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state in the U.S.

The Fraser Insitute’s executive vice-president Jason Clemens said Michigan’s adoption of the legislation, as well as similar moves by other states in the so-called Rust Belt, “puts increased pressure on Ontario’s ability to compete,” particularly in the manufacturing sector.

“Worker choice laws don’t prevent unionization but they give workers a choice,” Clemens said. “And when workers have a choice, they choose unions less often.”

According to the Fraser Institute, in U.S. states with right-to-work laws, unionization in the private sector is 3.9 per cent compared to 10 per cent in states without such legislation.

In Ontario, private sector unionization was 15.3 per cent in 2012, the think-tank said.

But the OFL countered with statistics of its own, claiming union membership delivers an average wage increase of $5.11 more an hour across Canada, while in Ontario the “union advantage” is $6.19 more an hour.

“Unions have created Canada’s middle class and they bring economic stability for everyone,” said the OFL’s Ryan.

Ryan went on to call the legislation “anti-worker laws,” and said they force workers to work for less.

“It sets off a race to the bottom that is driven by corporate greed and can only be kept in check by strong opposition from workers themselves,” he said.

It seems, though, that the Fraser Institute sees greener grass on its side of the proverbial fence, claiming the laws would “conservatively” boost Ontario’s total economic output by $11.8-billion while increasing employment in the province by almost 57,000 jobs.

To read both reports, go to the OFL and Fraser Institute websites.

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