Advice on how to object to political use of union dues

The following is taken from an email message I sent to someone who had visited my website and wanted to do something about union dues being spent on political activities.

The person responded that they don’t want to become involved in federal or provincial politics,  but in my opinion, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak seems determined to do something about unions spending money to undermine his party.  He is particularly annoyed about union-financed agitation against his candidates in the recent by-elections.

If he becomes Premier, there is no doubt in my mind that he will do something about this, and I view it as a rare and wonderful opportunity.

This advice might be helpful to anyone else wanting to object to their dues being spent in ways they do not approve of…

It is not complete, but gives a basic idea of what is necessary and how to go about it.

Jeff Goodall.

“I think the most important thing to do right now, is to get Tim Hudak to follow-through on the no-dues-for-politics routine. He has the power, he seems motivated, and it is the first time in almost 40 years of my experience that I think a politician might actually be persuaded to do something on this issue.

Secondly, try to set up a group of unionists to pressure Hudak and keep at him on the issue. You could come up with a name, “unionists against dues for politics” or whatever, (the term “business unionism” can be confusing first time around), and issue a press release.

Hammering at the “social unionism/business unionism” comparison is very important, as it will fix your position clearly in the public mind, and will not necessarily alienate other unionists even if they are NDP supporters.

Check the rules if you want to put leaflets on the desks where you work. Or, hand leaflets out to people entering the building, be careful not to trespass or obstruct. And watch for union goons trying to hassle you.

Send leaflets throughout your workplace to the union members, and there should be a mailroom where you work from which you can send envelopes of leaflets to every single work location in the City of Toronto.

Address it to “union members, this location” or whatever. You are unlikely to be hassled by management, but don’t use their photocopiers or any other equipment or materials. Don’t ask to use their stuff, that will put them on the spot. They probably won’t mind what you are doing, but they will not take sides.

Also, try to do this on your breaks or lunch hour, don’t risk discipline.

Thirdly, you will get more respect from the press if you are a steward. It’s not essential, but it helps.

And be aware, the union will not like your activities at all. I went through that for 20 years, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t care. Some 30 years ago, I was in the papers for picketing the Labour Day Parade…

If you are shy, or don’t want to have your name in the papers, try to get someone else to do it.

I can give you some advice with regards to issuing a press release if you wish, but try to get some backing first. At least be able to tell the press what you are doing to set up a group, and have something to show, such as copies of a leaflet you have sent out far and wide, for example.

And don’t expect much help. Others will praise you, but will not want to get involved. They will watch you and hope you do well, but you will essentially be alone.”

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