Unifor is well positioned to help Ontario workers, says Charlotte Yates, professor in the labour studies program at McMaster University in Hamilton.

Both the federal and provincial governments have proposed aggressive anti-worker legislation and the auto industry, despite 2014 sales at pre-recession highs, has cut wages, benefits and workplace rights, underscoring the need for workers to have a voice in their workplace, she said.

“There has been a shift in the balance of power, government is clearly favorable to industry and employers’ interests. Unions representing workers need a voice and a capacity to influence events,” said Yates.

She sees Unifor, born from a merger between Canadian Auto Workers and Communication Energy Paperworkers, uniquely positioned to represent workers given its size and strength.

“It is early but I see they are committed to a new approach to organizing and unionism,” such as representing a more diverse and vulnerable workforce, she explained.

That is critical now as unions are taking on issues that can diminish all workers’ rights on the job, she added.

Among the issues:

  • A law that would impose costly reporting standards on union spending that no other organization has to comply with.
  • Proposed right-to-work legislation, lowering wages, benefits and workers rights on the job.
  • Limiting union spending on political action.
  • Plans to privatize WSIB, workers compensation, placing injured workers in the hands of private insurers.

The result of these changes would see the voice of labour silenced, meaning less authority to bargain collective agreements.

In Right To Work states in the U.S. the result has been lower wages, workers are less likely to have health insurance and pensions and less likely to belong to a union.

“There is a growing disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom. We are seeing an erosion of the middle class, growth in dangerous work, and financial insecurity, high levels of unemployment and underemployment for young people, and dragging down wages,” said Yates.

“This is why we need unions.”