Union Membership Rates in Canada and the United States
The economic experiences of the United States (US) and Canada are approximately comparable. These countries also have an economic integration level that is also increasing. Even so, union membership rates in the two countries have continued to differ in the past three decades. It is therefore clear that economic issues are factors of little importance in offering an explanation about the case.
This paper therefore seeks to explore the reason as to why the US and Canada’s union membership rates differ despite having economic experiences that are similar. The membership fee in Canada has significantly been on the rise in the past three decades unlike in the US that has been declining.
Such differences are mainly attributed to availability of public labor policy in the two countries. The most notable disparity in the public labor policy in Canada is that it offers enhanced protection of union security compared to that of the US. Additionally, many provinces in Canada banned the use of permanent replacements in the event of strike and two of the provinces have completely banned the replacements.
US labor laws on the other hand allow for permanent and temporary replacements except in the event where is prove of unfair labor practice strikes. The difference has therefore been made worse by US right to work laws that are enforced in 22 states forbidding creation of agency shops and unions. Canada contrary to the US does not have the right to work regulations thus, assuring establishment of labor unions as well as agency shops in many of its provinces.
The certification method used by Canada has also made it easy for employees to join unions in the country than in the US. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the US covering private sector employees can only file a petition for certification if it receives 65 percent and above employee support.
In Canada, the situation is quite different because labor board only needs 35-45 percent of employee support proof to schedule and hon an election in an effort to support unionization. Automatic certification in Canada is also more streamlined once many of the employees support the call for unionization. There are also provinces in Canada that offer instant certification without any form of election thus, reducing sabotage by managerial methods that are antiunion.
Canada’s public sector is also having stronger union rights that have been improved by strict labor legislation enforcement. The decentralization of Canadian labor force has also increased unionization in places where labor laws are centralized. While Canadian provincial laws cover all employees in private and public sectors, US National Labor Relations Act coves those in private sector mainly. The US public sector also falls under the state jurisdiction precisely.
Additionally, political influence has played a crucial role in promoting high rates of unionization in Canada. The political landscape in the country is dominated by pro-labor parties including New Democratic Party (NDP) and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). The parties have therefore enhanced labor interests in Canada and more specifically in relation to passing of pro-labor laws.
Absence of pro-labor political parties in the United States can be partly responsible for declining union membership rates. The divergence in union membership rates trend is more likely to grow in short or medium term. The reason for the trend is that Canadian labor laws are highly decentralized at the provincial level and they enhance coverage of many public and private employees unlike in the US where only private employees are governed by centralized federal laws.
Political parties have also continued to dominate the US. The parties are not pro-labor in nature therefore, preventing passage of legislations that are capable of advancing labor interests including unionization. Canada unlike the US also has high union democracy with minimal corruption incidences therefore, attracting more clients.
Lastly large public sector in Canada has promoted union membership unlike the US where the private sector is very dominant. Private sector employers are mainly against union formation by staff and often use managerial tactics to prevent such attempts.