In a decision released June 25, 2012, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “Board”) has found that an organizer from the Labourers’ International Union of North America, Ontario Provincial District Council (“LIUNA”) improperly influenced employees of Graham Bros. Construction Limited to sign union membership cards, in breach of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (the “Act”).
In the Graham Bros. case, LIUNA had a two-tier initiation fee—its normal fee of $850, and a reduced fee of only $50 for employees who joined the union as a result of the certification of Graham Bros. Under Board jurisprudence, unions are entitled to have such a two-tier fee system, but the lower fee must be available not only to employees who sign membership cards during the organizing drive, but also to those who are required to join the union after certification if the drive is successful.
The LIUNA organizer in that case told employees that the union had enough cards signed to be certified, and that if they joined now, they would only have to pay $50, but if they waited and had to join later, they would have to pay the higher initiation fee.
The Board found it a reasonable inference that some of the employees may have signed cards not because they wanted to join the union, but because they wanted to avoid paying the higher amount later to keep their job. As a result, the Board stated that it could not trust the membership evidence filed by the union, and so LIUNA should not be certified on the basis of cards alone, as it otherwise would have been.
To remedy the breach, the Board ordered that a notice to employees be posted in the workplace explaining that any construction labourers employed by Graham Bros. at the time of certification would be entitled to join the union and pay an initiation fee of $50 if the union was certified, and setting out the employees’ rights under the Act. The Board ordered that a representation vote be held to determine the true wishes of the employees.