The following is a letter I wrote to the president of the Canadian Labour Congress on Nov. 24, 2021, as a lawyer on behalf of my clients who are union members.
I write to you on behalf of my clients, members of a number of unions under the Canadian Labour Congress umbrella, to request that you set a new course concerning the vaccine mandate policies.
The unions are missing a golden opportunity. The mistreatment of workers in COVID times has presented the labour union movement with its best opportunity in many decades to grow its membership and demonstrate its value by fighting for oppressed workers.
I wish you could hear the many heartbreaking stories that are brought to me daily of unionized workers whose lives are being destroyed by the vaccine mandates.
A woman contracting myocarditis after the first dose of the vaccine—but refused exemption from the second dose. A woman with an autoimmune disease and thyroid cancer—refused exemption. A woman with a serious neurological disorder—refused exemption. A woman in a very risky pregnancy—refused exemption. All of them to be fired for “just cause.”
There are thousands of stories. Many people are simply instructed by their own consciences that receiving injections of experimental medicines is unwise—especially considering the staggering death and injury toll around these vaccines. All of these people to be fired for “just cause.”
Unfortunately, many union leaders have seized the golden opportunity as an occasion to decimate their own ranks and increase the oppression of members who refuse vaccination. How did this become the policy of any union, and what are its limits?
The collective agreements are the fence between the employers and the workers. The unions defend the boundary line and guard the gate. This time, some unions have allowed the employers to breach the fence and have opened the gate to let them pillage the workers.
Your oppressed workers are calling out to their unions for help. But some unions are abandoning them and throwing them out of fellowship, many into bankruptcy and poverty, and marked for life as insubordinate, unvaccinated, and unemployable—society’s castoffs.
You need to call those union leaders to account who are aiding the brutal treatment of their members. These leaders have sworn to serve as agents of the workers, but have turned coat and become agents of the employers. They are working against their own interests.
Attack on Unions
And now it has become clear. The employers and the governments are really attacking the unions themselves. They’ve rolled their Trojan horse inside the fence under the cover of a health emergency, and they’ve swept away the unions’ authority.
They’re attacking your collective agreements. You’ve allowed them inside the bargaining unit. They’re in, and you’re out. They’re determining the bargain. They’ve taken control of the unions.
The B.C. government has issued an order-in-council, which you can expect other governments to follow. It says: “If an employee is terminated under the COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, the employee is deemed to have been dismissed for just cause.”
This is a direct attack on the union movement from the highest level—even coming from the union-friendly B.C. government. They’ve overridden your collective agreements’ power. The interests of your political and labour union branches in B.C. are irreconcilable.
By the simple stroke of a pen, your collective agreements have been wasted—emptied of power. Is not the union movement set back 100 years by this? It’s an unprecedented attack on the very existence of unions and the integrity of the bargaining process.
This is about the survival of the union movement. Surely you remember the horrifying examples of dictatorial governments crushing trade unions in the past? Do you think it couldn’t happen again? It’s happening right now.
You have to fight back. If you sit idly by while the attackers destroy your movement, what did your forerunners fight for these past centuries? Your forerunners would have had utter contempt for these policies now crushing the unions underfoot.
I disagree that the unions have no tools to oppose this attack. Absolutely wrong. You do have the tools. You have all the tools. You have lacked certainty and unity.
A simple review of the history of the union movement will provide you with plenty of ideas of how to end this oppression. Remember that your opponents have now torn up the agreements that held you bound.
There’s only one way for the unions to respond to the attack: by holding the employers to the promises they made in the collective agreements by any and all reasonable means available.
A union movement divided against itself cannot stand. There is always the inevitable appearance of conflict of interest between your political ambitions and your duty to your members. This time, that appearance of conflict is front and centre.
Apparently, the vaccine mandate policies are advantageous to your political branch. But your labour branch is being torn right off by these same policies—which you clearly did not intend to happen. Your dual purposes are at odds with one another.
Any movement that abandons its base in pursuit of a higher prize destroys itself. You would be far wiser to reject the higher prize of political power and preserve your base: your labour branch, where all your power comes from.
No one is suggesting that COVID-19 is not a serious foe. But it must be met in a way that leaves the great principles of our society whole, including the rights of workers to organize.
The labour unions’ honour in these times is to protect every member and see that not one of them is lost from the union rolls—no matter their vaccine views—from the most COVID-19 fearful to the most vaccine hesitant.
It’s unwise in any event to promote the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines when clinical trials have not ended and all the side effects are not yet known. We don’t even know what’s in these vaccines. It’s a divisive issue best left alone by the unions.
There will be no reward for those who deny your members’ charter freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, and expression, and the rights of life, liberty, security, equality and mobility—including the rights of informed consent and medical privacy.
I urge you to no longer lend your weight and influence to vaccine mandate policies that are destroying your movement and your members. Lend your powerful, united voice instead to the restoration of fairness, justice, and integrity in the labour relations process.
These vaccine mandates will ultimately collapse before the law—if our system of law survives. Your movement will want to be on the right side of this when it all falls down.
The Supreme Court of Canada has pointed out: “[T]he centrality of the rights associated with freedom of individual conscience both to basic beliefs about human worth and dignity and to a free and democratic political system … underlies their designation in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as “fundamental.”
All of these principles are being dashed to the ground in these times. Even in times of crisis, the individuals’ freedom of conscience, and human worth and dignity must be honoured if we are to remain a free and democratic society. This is imperative.
I call upon the unions to set a new course. Stand with your members against these overreaching, lawless policies, and against the firings and mandates that defile your members’ consciences and crush their human worth and dignity.
I encourage you to turn away from this heresy against the union movement’s core historical values. I believe the window of opportunity for you to act is short, but it’s not too late.
I am confident that if the union movement turns around on time, all of the workers’ rights violations nationwide will be overturned in hours, not days. This is your moment—if you take it up.
Thank you for considering these matters.
Barrister and Solicitor
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.