CUPE has filed a legal challenge against Alberta legislation they say is designed to tie unions in red tape and limit their freedom to exist.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill, one of the plaintiffs in the case, says changes to labour laws passed by the United Conservative Party (UCP) were “a kind of low-level union busting you might see in the southern US or a Central American dictatorship.”

Specifically, CUPE is challenging the provisions of Bill 32, Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, (2020). The bill mandates that unions operating in Alberta must:

  • Classify all spending as being ‘core’ or ‘non-core’ activities,
  • Collect written consent from all dues-payers on an annual basis to deduct dues for all ‘non-core’ activities, and
  • Instruct employers to not collect the portion of dues allocated for ‘non-core’ activities for any dues-payers who have not provided consent to pay.

“The UCP want unions to spend all our time collecting signatures from every dues payer,” said Gill. “Time spent in this exercise is time not bargaining better wages and working conditions, and time not defending members. And in the UCP’s eyes, that’s a good thing.”

Gill says CUPE and other unions operate in a fully democratic manner and pointed out that the government doesn’t practice what it preaches.

“I’d like to not pay taxes for the so-called war room, or the $7 billion wasted on the failed Keystone pipeline, but the UCP doesn’t give anyone the option to opt-out of those projects.”

CUPE’s Statement of Claim, filed today at the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta, charges that the legislation contains restrictions on the freedom of association and freedom of speech of CUPE and other unions.

Gill says the legislation is an attempt to stop CUPE from taking public positions on Alberta issues like health care, education funding, or job creation.

“Every CUPE local has monthly meetings that any member can attend and ask questions, move motions, and vote on the spending and actions and positions of their union. We are very democratic. But the UCP doesn’t like the political direction CUPE has been given by our members in open votes. So they are trying to use legislation to shut us up.”

CUPE’s submissions note that there are no similar restrictions on union activities in any other province or the federal sector.

“This law blatantly tries to gag expression, it’s an attempt to stop workers from democratically governing themselves. It’s unconstitutional and we intend to prove that in court.”