Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The Ghosts of Wagnerism: Organized Labour, Union Strategies, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

  • Charles W. Smith (a1)

Abstract

Wagnerism has been at the centre of Canadian labour relations since the end of World War II. Wagnerism rests on a so-called balance between workers and employers. Between 2007 and 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the constitution includes protections for good faith collective bargaining and to strike. In these cases, the Court stated that it is not constitutionally enshrining Wagnerism, yet it also leaned heavily on Wagner principles in arriving at its decisions. Building on interviews with national union leaders, I argue that the ambiguity between the Court’s decisions and Wagnerism has left workers uncertain about how these rights alter the material conditions of unions. I conclude that the court’s embrace of labour freedoms will only have material benefit if workers are willing to use these newfound freedoms to build working class capacities to directly confront ongoing attacks by governments and employers on core union freedoms.

En 2007, la Cour suprême du Canada a statué que la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés prévoyait la négociation collective de bonne foi. En 2015, la Cour a déterminé que la Charte protégeait le droit de grève. Ce faisant cependant, la Cour déclarait qu’elle n’entendait pas constitutionnaliser les politiques canadiennes en matière de relations de travail inspirées de Wagner. Ironiquement, la jurisprudence de la Cour suprême a toutefois été fortement influencée par les politiques de Wagner. L’ambiguïté entre les décisions de la Cour suprême et le wagnérisme lui-même a ainsi créé une série de questions pour les militants syndicaux et les chercheurs en politiques du travail. Quelles sont, par exemple, les implications de cette décision pour les lois canadiennes en droit du travail s’inspirant de Wagner? De plus, comment les syndicats qui s’appuient actuellement sur les protections de Wagner réagissent-ils à ces nouvelles libertés constitutionnelles? Le présent article répond à ces questions en suggérant que la Cour suprême a créé une jurisprudence ambiguë qui amplifie les tensions au sein du mouvement syndical actuel.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The Ghosts of Wagnerism: Organized Labour, Union Strategies, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The Ghosts of Wagnerism: Organized Labour, Union Strategies, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The Ghosts of Wagnerism: Organized Labour, Union Strategies, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

References

Hide All
Adams, Roy. 2008. From Statutory Right to Human Right: The Evolution and Current Status of Collective Bargaining. Just Labour: A Canadian Journal of Work and Society 12: 5867.
Albo, Gregory. 2010. The “New Economy” and Capitalism Today. In Interrogating the New Economy: Restructuring Work in the 21st Century, ed. Pupo, N. and Thomas, M., 3–20. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Arthurs, Harry. 2010. Constitutionalizing the Right of Workers to Organize, Bargain and Strike: The sight of one shoulder shrugging. Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal 15: 373–87.
Baily, Ian. 2017. B.C. Teachers Optimistic Class Sizes, Composition Will Be Addressed. The Globe and Mail, 21 February. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-teachers-optimistic-class-sizes-composition-will-be-addressed/article34107561/.
Braley-Rattai, Alison. 2014. Harnessing the Possibilities of Minority Unionism in Canada. Labor Studies Journal 38 (4): 321–40.
Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights. 2017. Restrictive Labour Law Directory. http://labourrights.ca/restrictive-labour-laws.
Carter, Donald D., England, Geoffrey, Etherington, Brian, and Trudeau, Gilles. 2002. Labour Law in Canada. Toronto: Butterworths.
Compa, Lance. 2014. The Wagner Act Model and International Freedom of Association Standards. In Autonomie collective et droit du travail. Mélanges en l’honneur du professeur Pierre Verge, ed. Roux, Dominic, 427–461. Québec City, Canada: Presses de l’Université Laval. https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/articles/998/
Doorey, David. 2013. Graduated Freedom of Association: Worker voice beyond the Wagner Act. Queen’s Law Journal 38: 511–51.
Employment and Social Development Canada. 2004–2015. Union Membership in Canada. Labour Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
Fudge, Judy, and Tucker, Eric. 2001. Labour Before the Law: The Regulation of Workers’ Collective Action in Canada, 1900–1948. Toronto: Oxford.
Fudge, Judy, and Tucker, Eric. 2000. Pluralism or Fragmentation? The twentieth-century employment law regime in Canada. Labour/Le Travail 46 (Fall): 251306.
Fudge, Judy, and Tucker, Eric. 2010. The Freedom to Strike in Canada: A brief legal history. Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal 15: 333–53.
Fudge, Judy, and Jensen, Heather 2016. The Right to Strike: The Supreme Court of Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the arc of workplace justice. Kings Law Journal 27 (1): 89109.
Heron, Craig. 2012. The Canadian Labour Movement: A Short History. Toronto: Lorimer.
Huxley, Christopher. 1979. Collective Bargaining and the Shape of Strikes in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Sociology 4 (3): 223–39.
Langille, Brian. 2009. The Freedom of Association Mess: How we got into it and how we can get out of it. McGill Law Journal 54: 177212.
Lewchuk, Wayne, Procyk, Stephanie, and Shields, John. 2017. Origins of Precarity: Families and communities in crisis. In Precarious Employment: Cases, consequences, and remedies, ed. Lewchuk, W., Procyk, S., and Shields, J., 2–12. Winnipeg and Halifax: Fernwood.
Logan, Harold A. 1956. State Intervention and Collective Bargaining: The Canadian experience, 1943–1954. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
McBride, Stephen. 2017. Working? Employment policy in Canada . Toronto: Rockmills.
Palmer, Bryan. 1992. Working Class Experience: Rethinking the history of Canadian labour, 1800–1991. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Panitch, Leo, and Swartz, Donald. 2003. From Consent to Coercion: The assault on trade union freedoms. Toronto: Garamond.
Peirce, Jon. 2003. Canadian Industrial Relations. Toronto: Prentice Hall.
Russell, Bob. 1990. Back to Work? Labour, state, and industrial relations in Canada . Toronto: Nelson.
Russell, Bob. 1995. Labour’s Magna Carta? Wagnerism in Canada at fifty. In Labour Gains, Labour Pains: 50 Years of PC 1003 , ed. Gonick, Cy, Phillips, Paul, and Vorst, Jesse, 177–91. Halifax: Fernwood.
Savage, Larry, and Smith, Charles W.. 2017. Unions in Court: Organized labour and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Sefton-MacDowell, Laurel. 1978. The Formation of the Canadian industrial relations system during World War II. Labour/Le Travailleur 3: 175–96.
Slinn, Sara. 2014. Whither Wagner? Reconsidering labor law and policy reform. Minnesota Law Review 98: 1805–41.
Smith, Charles W. 2008. The Politics of the Ontario Labour Relations Act: Business, labour, and government in the consolidation of post-war industrial relations, 1949–1961. Labour/Le Travail 62: 109–51.
Smith, Charles W. 2014. “We Didn’t Want To Totally Break the Law”: Industrial legality, the Pepsi strike, and workers’ collective rights in Canada. Labour/Le Travail 74: 89121.
Stevens, Andrew, and Nesbitt, Doug. 2014. An Ear of Wildcats and Sick-Outs in Canada? The Continued decline of industrial pluralism and the case of Air Canada. Labor Studies Journal 39 (2): 118–39.
Tucker, Eric. 2014a. Can Worker Voice Strike Back? Law and the decline and uncertain future of strikes. In Voices at Work: Continuity and change in the common law world, ed. Alan, Bogg and Tonia, Novitz, 455–73. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tucker, Eric. 2014b. Shall Wagnerism Have No Dominion? Just Labour: A Canadian Journal of Work and Society 21: 127.
Tucker, Eric. 2008. The Constitutional Right to Bargain Collectively: The ironies of labour history in the Supreme Court of Canada. Labour/Le Travail 61: 151–80.
Walchuk, Bard. 2016. The Pitfalls of Embracing Minority Unionism. Journal of Workplace Rights July–September: 112.
Yussuff, Hassan. 2015. With Right To Strike, the Supreme Court Returns Balance to the Workplace. The Globe and Mail, 12 May. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/with-right-to-strike-the-supreme-court-returns-balance-to-the-workplace/article22722756/
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation v. British Columbia, 2015 BCCA. 184.
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation v. British Columbia, [2016] 2 SCR 407.
Dunmore v. Ontario (Attorney General), [2001] 3 SCR 1016.
Health Services and Support—Facilities Subsector Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia, [2007] 2 SCR 391.
Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Canada (Attorney General), [2015] 1 SCR 3. (Supreme Court of Canada).
Ontario (Attorney General) v. Fraser, [2011] 2 SCR 3.
Ontario (Attorney General) v. Fraser, Respondent’s Factum. http://www.scc-csc.ca/WebDocuments-DocumentsWeb/32968/FM030_Respondents_Michael-J-Fraser-et-al.pdf (file no. 32968).
Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada v. Northwest Territories (Commissioner), [1990] 2 SCR 367.
PSAC v. Canada, [1987] 1 SCR 424.
Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act, [1987] 1 SCR 313.
Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act, 1987, Alberta Union of Public Employees’ Factum (File no. 19234).
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Loc. 580 v. Dolphin Delivery Ltd., [1986] 2 SCR 573.
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union v. Saskatchewan, [1987] 1 SCR 460.
Royal Oak Mines v. Canada (Labour Relations Board), [1996] 1 SCR 369.
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan, [2015] 1 SCR 245.
Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002 (Ontario)
Agricultural Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Ontario)
Education Improvement Act, 2012 (British Columbia)
Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, 2002 (British Columbia)
Industrial Relations Disputes Investigation Act, 1948
Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, 1907
National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169
Public Service Essential Services Act, 2008 (Saskatchewan)
Wartime Labour Relations Regulations, PC 1003, 1944

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed