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Why should Albertans care about the UCP’s attack on worker rights?

Because it hurts all of us!

Jason Kenney and the UCP government's Bill 32 is an attack on workers and unions to tip the scales in favour of corporations and the rich. Albertans should care about what Kenney is doing because it has the potential to hurt everyone. The record from around the world – especially from south of the border in the U.S. – clearly shows that when governments pass laws that weaken the bargaining power of workers – in the workplace and on the political stage – everyone suffers.

Bargaining Power

The UCP’s new labour law will weaken the bargaining power of Alberta workers, by dropping the floor of rights for non-union workers and by tying the hands of unionized workers. The UCP clearly hopes workers will be so weak that they’ll have no choice but to take whatever employers and governments give them – no matter how unfair or inadequate that might be. The new law will also undermine the ability of working Albertans to pool their resources to run public advocacy campaigns on issues that matter to ordinary citizens.

Cuts, Cuts, Cuts 

Unions have been leading the fight against the UCP’s cuts to education and health care. They’ve been advocating for safer workplaces and more secure pensions. They’ve been calling for public Pharmacare, affordable child care and a plan to deal with the global move away from fossil fuels. They’ve also been arguing that going back to “normal” after COVID-19 is not good enough. They say we can do better. Of course, Jason Kenney doesn’t want to talk about any of these things. That’s why he’s changing the law: to shut workers up.

Double standard

Corporations also lobby governments and run campaigns – but they won’t face the same cumbersome restrictions on their freedom of expression as unions. But that’s the point. Corporations and the wealthy already have far more power than workers, but Kenney wants to tip the scales even further in their favour. He wants to shrink the megaphone that working people have when they act together – while boosting the volume of the megaphones deployed by his corporate friends and supporters.

Kenney is protecting himself and his wealthy donors

The reality is that Jason Kenney is scared. He fears the power that working people can wield when they act collectively. He knows that worker collective action exercised through unions is one of the only real, effective counterbalances to the power of corporations – and the conservative governments that serve them.

That’s why he wants to shut workers up and shut them down.

Kenney says his new law is about “freedom,” “choice,” and “balance.” But that’s hogwash.

It’s really about Kenney helping himself by introducing restrictions and red tape to tie up some of his most effective critics.

The Trumpification of Alberta

Kenney is following the lead of right-wing Republican governors who, in more than half of America’s 50 states, have passed so-called “Right-to-Work” laws that starve unions of funds by making union dues optional, even for people who directly benefit from the contracts negotiated by those unions.

It would be like telling people they can use public services if they like; but they don’t have to pay taxes if they don’t want to. Many people wouldn’t pay, and the quality of the public service would quickly decline.

That’s the not-so-hidden goal of these laws: they say they’re about freedom and choice, but they’re really designed to rob unions of the resources they need to be an effective counterbalance to employers, governments and the wealthy.

And when worker bargaining power is weakened in this way, things get bad for working people very quickly.

American states with “Right-to-Work” laws have lower wages, higher levels of inequality, poorer safety standards, crappier public services and weaker economies (because people have less money to spend).

Given this dismal track record, the obvious question is: why would we want to do this to ourselves? The Trumpification of our labour laws may suit Kenney’s purposes, but it’s clearly not in the best interests of most Albertans.

What can we do about it?

The UCP is clearly determined to use its majority to ram its noxious anti-worker labour law through the Legislature and, in the process, begin transforming Alberta in the image of a U.S. Republican State.

We may not be able to stop them for the time being – but we can make it as difficult for them as possible. We can also use this moment to draw attention to what’s really going on and highlight whose side Jason Kenney is really on (if you’re a working person, it’s not yours).

With that in mind, we ask you to do three things.

First, share this page and these videos with your friends. We need as many Albertans as possible to understand what Kenney’s new anti-worker bill actually means for our province.

Second, sign the Defend Worker Rights petition. You’ll receive material from us that you can share with your friends. You’ll also be given information about how you can work with others in your community to either thank your local MLA if they support worker rights or pressure them to change their tune, if they do not. We’re establishing teams of people who care about worker rights in every constituency around the province – and you can be part of it!

Third, send an email to your MLA right now.  We need to send UCP MLAs a message that they do NOT have a mandate to Americanize our workplace laws or tip the scales in favour of employers at the expense of workers. If you have an NDP MLA, send them a message too to reinforce the need for them to stand up and push back against Jason Kenney’s attack on worker rights.

Together, we can help all Albertans understand that a healthy economy and a healthy democracy depends on regular working people having rights, both in the workplace and on the political stage! Join our Defend Worker Rights campaign!