Working people are experiencing difficult times. At the bargaining table, we are fighting for fair wages, working conditions, and pensions. In some cases, cuts, restructuring, outsourcing and privatization of public services are threatening the very existence of public sector unions.

All this is happening against a background of concerted attacks against unions by right-wing governments, media, right-wing research institutes, and others. Unions are used to being the target of attacks. That is nothing new. These legislative attacks only reinforce the challenges that we already see in our locals.

But in recent years, the attacks against unions and workers have taken on an unprecedented scale in Canada. 

For example, the federal Conservatives are trying to destroy the right to collective bargaining, by greatly expanding the notion of “essential services”, pursuing a tactic that they have used before against Air Canada flight attendants and postal workers.

Similarly, under the pretext of transparency, these same federal Conservatives would like to impose extreme interference in our internal affairs, something they do not require of any other organization. Bill C-377 is an attack on our freedom of association and our freedom of expression.

The Conservatives also want to reduce our financial strength and our ability to conduct campaigns supporting the interests of members and the general public. To do so, they are attempting to attack the Rand formula and reduce the ability of unions to collect dues.

As if that were not enough, the Conservatives want to make joining a union more difficult, and decertification easier. Bill C-525 is another direct attack against the trade union movement and our internal democracy.

That is why the Unite for Fairness project is so important. As unions, we need to strengthen our organization and ensure better communication with our members, in order to be strong enough to confront these attacks. We must be informed, trained, and responsive. And we know that the first step is to tune in more than ever before to the needs and aspirations of our members.