FILM TAKES ON HUDAK'S RIGHT TO WORK
By Susanna Kelley
One of Ontario's biggest public service unions will launch a comedic short film called "No Free Ride" Wednesday to counter PC leader Tim Hudak's push to make Ontario a "Right To Work" province.
Mr. Hudak's policy would allow employees in a unionized workplace to opt out of paying union dues if they wanted to, yet still collect all the benefits that are bargained for them by the union, such as pension and dental plans, etc.
Such a policy is, currently, illegal in Canada.
However, Mr. Hudak would like to challenge the so-called "Rand Formula" court ruling that made it so.
Set in a suburban neighbourhood as a taxi driver asks for his fare, the MacDonald/OPSEU film makes the point that getting something for nothing is anathema to any honest and fair-minded person:
The film, directed by multiple award-winner Bruce MacDonald, makes the moral argument that trying to get something for nothing is wrong.
Mr. MacDonald says he wanted to show younger people the benefits they enjoy can't be taken for granted, and that they required a union, backed by many ordinary people making many sacrifices, to win those benefits in the first place:
The purpose of the film is two-fold, said OPSEU spokesperson Randy Robinson.
First, it is to educate the 125,000 dues-paying members of OPSEU - and all union members - about what it is Mr. Hudak is actually trying to propose, he says.
That's because the name "Right To Work" doesn't actually reflect the policy and can be misleading.
It does not confer a right to work on anyone, as one might infer from the name, but rather, something much different - the right to withdraw paying union dues.
The idea actually comes from an American amendment to the National Labor (sic) Relations Act in 1947 called the "Taft-Hartley Act."
It allowed precisely what Mr. Hudak is proposing, something unions have denounced as allowing "free riders."
However, in Canada, a 1946 compromise ruling by Mr. Justice Ivan Rand called the "Rand Formula" ruled the exact opposite: that those enjoying benefits won by unions in collective bargaining must pay dues.
Hence the film's name, "No Free Ride."
Many say Right To Work is a method to weaken unions by starving them of funds.
In fact, that is exactly what has happened in the United States in Right to Work states.
Mr. Hudak maintains allowing workers to opt out of paying union dues would put more money back into the pockets of "hard-working Ontarians."
Deputy PC leader Christine Elliott has said making Ontario a Right To Work province will help create more jobs here.
But according to the Economic Policy Institute, an average worker - unionized or not - in a Right To Work state makes "approximately $1500 less per year than in a similar worker in a state without such a law" even though there are more jobs available.
OPSEU President Warren "Smokey" Thomas makes an appearance in the film as well:
The other purpose of launching the film, according to OPSEU's Robinson, is "to let the Ontario PC's know that we're taking note of this and paying close attention to what they're doing."
"The argument we're making is the moral argument, we're surprised that a party like the Conservatives would feel it was okay to get something for nothing. Who is the real hypocrite here?" said Mr. Robinson.
Historically there has been a poisonous relationship between Mr. Hudak's advisors - made up of many members of former PC Premier Mike Harris' old team - and OPSEU.
Ironically, it was 17 years ago this very week that OPP riot squad officers beat OPSEU protesters who were on strike against Mr. Harris' government when they protested at Queen's Park.
The riot squad had hidden in the basement of one of the Queen's Park buildings, where one officer was famously quoted before the protest as saying "We're going to whack 'em and stack 'em."
Pictures of that protest were beamed around the world, and after an inquiry, policing of the Legislature was taken away from the OPP and given totally to the Metro Toronto Police.
The film will be launched Wednesday on the website www.NoFreeRide.ca, as well as being promoted on Twitter and on a Facebook page.