New Ruling Says Alberta Strike Legislation Violates The Charter

Strike legislation has definitely been in the spotlight this year and now Alberta is the latest province to see a major court decision handed down.

On April 2 it was announced that the Alberta Court of Queens Bench had struck down provincial labour laws that took away the right to strike for public workers.

DSC_2158 (2)Justice Dennis Thomas ruled that Section 96 of the Labour Relations Code and Section 70 of the Public Service Employee Relations Act violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 96 of the Labour Relations Code deals with the ‘application and prohibition against strike and lockout’ and Section 70 of the Public Service Employee Relations Act states that ‘no person or trade union shall cause or attempt to cause a strike by the persons to whom this Act applies.’

Both sections have serious implications for workers rights in Alberta, and this decision was regarded as a move in the right direction by both unions and workers around the province.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, was one of those who were pleased with the ruling.

In a statement after the ruling McGowan said that Albertans ‘have the right to work together, to look after each other and to stand up for themselves when needed.’

“Attacking those rights doesn’t lead to labour peace – it leads to long-term problems. I am very pleased that Justice Thomas in his wisdom has reaffirmed those rights,” said McGowan.

DSC_2168Thomas gave the government until April 1, 2016 to amend the legislation and cited the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour vs. Saskatchewan.

On Jan. 30 it was ruled that the Saskatchewan law that prevented public sector employees from striking was unconstitutional and the government was also given one year to amend the law.

In an interview with Global News Lori Johb of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour said that although workers aren’t generally ‘keen to strike’ this ruling ‘leveled the playing field.’

“Without that right, we really had no power, we had no ability to achieve fair, collective bargaining for all the members,” she said.

If the recent rulings are any indication, unions and workers across the country will be paying close attention to strike legislation in all provinces.

Laporte Expected To Take Canadian Membership To ‘New Heights’ As President Of Teamsters Canada

TEAM1847_01_FLaporte11Just a month after 115,000 ballots were mailed out to Teamsters across the country – a new Teamsters President was officially announced on March 19.

François Laporte of Local Union 106 in Montreal has been elected President of Teamsters Canada, replacing Robert Bouvier who held the position for the last 15 years.

Richard Eichel, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer with Teamsters Local 362, commented that ‘this is a great announcement that will take our Canadian membership to new heights.’

Laporte has been with the Teamsters for 30 years, starting out with Local 1999 and Joint Council 91 in 1985. Over the years he has held the position of Communication Specialist, Organizer, Director of Government Affairs and Union Representative.

Previous to his new role as President, he has held the position of Assistant to the President of Teamsters Canada since 2000.

“I look forward to taking up this new and exciting challenge,” said Laporte in a statement released from Teamsters Canada. He also added that the Teamsters Union is a ‘powerful organization that will continue to have a positive impact on its members and all Canadian workers.’

Teamster Experiences The True Meaning Of Unity In Selma

The Edmund Pettus Bridge is around 1,200 feet long and crosses the west flowing Alabama River. Upon first glance it seems like an average bridge, but in 1965 it became a powerful symbol for the civil rights movement.

Just over 50 years ago on March 7, the bridge was the site of what would become known as ‘Bloody Sunday’, where over 500 civil rights marchers, including Martin Luther King Jr., headed out to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.

20150308_164345After crossing the bridge, they were met by deputies and state troopers who attacked the group with nightsticks and tear gas, leaving dozens injured.

“You really had to stop and take a moment and say, ‘wow. What they must have gone through,’” said Troy Wright, a Teamsters 362 executive board trustee who went down to Selma on behalf of the union to the 50th anniversary event.

Originally form California, Troy's parents are African American and he said knowing what they had to go through in the 50’s and 60’s, just to get the right to vote, really impacted him.

It is a right, as Troy pointed out, that we often take for granted today. He said what affected him most was visiting the museum in Selma, with so many pieces of history that told the story of these civil rights marches.

This brought up ‘deep feelings’ for him, viewing photos of water hoses and police dogs, seeing a ‘blacks only’ water fountain and a figure dressed up like a Klu Klux Klan member, hooded with a whip.

He described a jar of multicoloured jelly beans that was taped up and African Americans would have to guess how many were in the jar in order to vote, adding that they would never 'guess the right number.' “That was when it all came together was in the museum,” said Troy. “It really kicked in.”

image018 During his three days there he was also able to hear President Obama speak and march with thousands over the bridge, including over 70 Teamsters from around North America. Teamsters have a strong history of being tied to the civil rights movement, providing money and supplies to many civil rights groups and having a good working relationship with King.

But there is also a very tragic connection to Selma.

image019 Viola Liuzzo was the wife of a Teamster business agent and took part in a later march from Selma to Montgomery. She was driving some marchers in her car on March 25 and was attacked and killed by Klu Klux Klan members.

At her funeral King, James R. Hoffa and other Teamsters leaders were in attendance.

“That made me proud, to know in 1965 that we were part of something in the solidarity. That’s where it began and it still stands to this day,” he said.

And solidarity is one of the biggest lessons Troy said he took away from the experience.

“Unity I think is a perfect example of what I’ve learned,” he explained. “We use the term a lot – strength in numbers. The one thing I could say is that if you see a picket line, you may not be a part of that picket line, but go help. They are fighting for something, they are fighting for their rights.”

He said he is so thankful to Teamsters and secretary treasurer Rick Eichel for the opportunity to participate in the event.