Workers using leafleting campaigns to build public support got a green light from the Supreme Court of Canada.
The court has ruled that laws preventing workers from leafleting at places other than the site of a labour dispute infringe on workers’ right to freedom of expression. B.C. Kmart employees took their case all the way to the top court, challenging a provincial labour relations board order to stop leafleting at Kmart locations beyond the two stores where workers had been locked out for six months.
The leaflets encouraged customers to do their Christmas shopping elsewhere. The workers didn’t try to block access to the store.
“The importance of freedom of expression during labour disputes cannot be over-emphasized,” wrote Justice Peter Cory in the unanimous decision. “Leafleting is of fundamental importance for workers and has a very real social value.”
The B.C. government has six months to clarify the section of the labour code so that workers are free to leaflet.
A similar decision was also handed down in a New Brunswick case where UFCW members were barred from distributing pamphlets in support of an organizing drive.
The court’s ruling recognizes that handing out leaflets about an employer’s labour relations practices is a legitimate way of getting customers and consumers to apply pressure 006e006f0020matter where it takes place.
It’s a tool CUPE members will want to keep in mind as we continue to take on privateers, bargain strong collective agreements and organize new members.