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My Entry on Harvard’s OnLabor Blog: “Cross Border Reflections on the Future of Labor Law Reform”

Happy New Year all!

For my first entry of the year, I will simply link to a short comparative labour law piece I published this week in the great OnLabor blog that is Professor Ben Sachs’ initiative out of Harvard Law School.

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The key point I’m making is that while Canadian inspired reforms to the U.S. Wagner Act would no doubt provide a boost to union organizing in the U.S., the cure for what ails U.S. collective bargaining will not be found in Canada.   We are experiencing a similar decline in private sector union density in Canada notwithstanding our more favourable labour law model (which itself is constantly under attack by the political right and corporate lobby).  It is necessary for collective bargaining advocates on both sides of the border to dialogue about models beyond the Wagner Act.

I note to American readers that here in Canada debate is underway about what such models might look like.  We can group those models into two rough categories as I explain in the OnLabor post:

When it comes to proposals to strengthen the Wagner Model, Canadians advocate for much the same bundle of reforms as their U.S. colleagues. However, occasionally, policy submissions question the continued viability of the Wagner Model, and explore alternative models that could extend the reach of collective bargaining to workers heretofore excluded, including service sector workers, homeworkers, artists, professionals, own account self-employed, “gig” workers, temp workers, and other non-standard workers. We can loosely group these proposals into two categories:

Proposals that “move up” from workplace level bargaining to broader-based structures of collective bargaining, including sectoral, multi-employer, or industry level bargaining; and

Proposals that “move down” from the majority, exclusive union presumption of the Wagner Model and explore alternative models of non-majority employee representation (minority unions or alternative forms of employee association) that would supplement full-fledged majority unionism where a majority is not possible or employees desire representative forms other than majority trade unionism in the Wagner model.

These are interesting times for labour law and the future is uncertain.  I’m looking forward to continued dialogue throughout 2019.

Questions for Discussion

What types of models hold the most promise for revitalizing collective bargaining in Canada and the U.S., those that move “up” or those that move “down”?  Should we be considering a mix of both?



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