Union dues, often compulsory for employees in industry, are being used for many purposes other than collective bargaining. These purposes include ideological warfare, often contrary to the views of those who pay the dues. They further include anti-family and anti-child policies such as abortion and homosexuality.
On December 18, 1985, the Supreme Court of Ontario began hearings on a challenge to the use of union dues for these causes. The challenger is Mervyn Lavigne, a community college teacher from Haileybury, Ontario. Mr. Lavigne claims that these practices violate his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Lavign’s lawyer, Dennis O’Connor, presented evidence on the use of union dues. Among the listed items are contributions of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) (2 million members) of nearly $1.2 million to the NDP is the past three elections (1984, $353,000, 1980, $432,000 plus $200,000 for general NDP purposes in 1983-4 and another $79,000 donated by its committee on public education.
Other general bodies such as the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), (600,000 members), as well as individual unions such as Mervyn Lavigne’s own OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union), also contribute to the NDP. Further donations include $409,000 from the CLC for Canadian disarmament groups and literature, $3,000 from the OFL for the support of Morgentaler and the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics; $157,000 from the CLC to British Miners whose 1984 strike was organized by a self-acknowledged Trotskyite, and smaller sums of money from various unions to oppose the municipal financing of Toronto’s domed stadium, for NDP fund-raising dinners and for aid to Nicaragua.
Political and social causes
Recently, the OFL passed a resolution calling for recognition, under certain circumstances, of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It is also entering the lists against free trade with the United States.
In other words, unions use members’ monthly dues for political and social causes unrelated to the direct economic welfare of their members.
Lavigne, who does not have to belong to a union and has refused to join, is compelled by law to pay dues of $338. a year to OPSEU, with whose political activities he disagrees. Actually, he does not want to reverse the present union practice of taking political positions. He argues that unions should ask members for assistance for a specific purpose, thus making those contributions voluntary only. Regular dues, he argues, should be used solely for collective bargaining.
Mr. Justice John White’s observation that unions are doing only what companies practice, was rejected by Lavigne’s lawyer O’Connor. “There is no government action,” he said, “which compels a consumer to buy a particular product or invest in any company.” The hearings will continue on January 27.
National Citizens Coalition
Lavigne is getting financial assistance from the National Citizens Coalition. In 1984 the Coalition successfully challenged the 1983 attempt by all three federal parties to muzzle freedom of speech during provincial and federal elections. Its successful challenge in a Calgary Court forced the Federal Liberal government to withdraw its amendment to the Elections Act, something which the general media had failed to do.
This time the Citizens Coalition is being attacked by such people as Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Clifford Pilkey, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
Borovoy is a leading spokesman for those who want religious, especially Christian, principles removed from public life. Pilkey is a Morgentaler supporter. In the spring of 1985, he invited Henry Morgentaler to address OFL delegates at a luncheon after which they voted Morgentaler a $3,000 donation. Early in November 1985, Pilkey attacked the National Coalition, stating:
Masquerading as champions of freedom for the little person, this right wing band of ideologues has charted a course of destruction for the very rights it pretends to protect…” (Sun, Nov. 11). Pilkey claims that the Coalition is seeking to destroy unions. Others argue that, with the support of people like Pilkey, the unions have no one to blame but themselves.