Christian Labour Association of Canada
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|Full name||Christian Labour Association of Canada|
|Affiliation||World Organization of Workers (WOW)|
|Key people||Dick Heinen, Executive Director
Hank Beekhuis, Ontario Director
Wayne Prins, Alberta/NWT/Nunavut Director
Dennis Perrin, Prairies Director
David Prentice, BC/Yukon Territory Director
|Office location||Mississauga, Ontario|
The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) is a labour union which represents workers in the construction, health care and food industries. The association was established in 1952 to represent workers on the basis of "Christian social principles". The CLAC claims that their approach to labour relations develops workers’ sense of responsibility, participation, stewardship, and dignity. The CLAC opposes what they call the undemocratic, adversarial, and monopolistic practices of the labour movement.
- 1 History of CLAC
- 2 Practices and policies
- 3 Services
- 4 Criticism
- 5 International Work
- 6 CLAC Locals
- 7 References
- 8 External links
History of CLAC
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CLAC has its roots in the Christian Socialism, which grew out of the Industrial Revolution. Like communism and socialism, Christian socialism sought to better the lives of workers. Unlike communism or socialism, it did not seek to start a revolution, or force workers to join a union. Instead, it advocated dignity and better working and living conditions for workers and freedom of association. This philosophy became the basis of many European labour unions in the late 1800s. These unions became a force in the world of labour relations.
The union ideology adopted in North America by most unions was communist/socialist in nature. Unlike the European pluralist model, where workers could choose from multiple unions in the same workplace, labour relations in North America was based on an all-or-nothing model, where workers of a company would be represented by one union. The unions which were formed were largely based in the US. Strikes and lockouts were frequent and sometimes violent due to the struggles between unions on the one hand and the police and lawmakers who sided with capitalist employers on the other hand.
By 1950, labour unions in Canada had organized themselves into 3 main groups: the Trades and Labour Congress, the Canadian Congress of Labour, and the Catholic unions of Quebec. The unions had gained power in the political arena and clout in the labour world. About 90% of workplaces that were represented by unions were closed shops. To work in those shops, one had to be a member of the union. Major unions in Canada, except for the Catholic unions in Quebec, were mostly led by social democrats or communists.
The Forming of CLAC
A group of Canadians, many of whom were Dutch immigrants who came to Canada after WWII, decided to form a union that followed not the principles of communism or socialism but the Christian social principles of dignity, justice, stewardship, and respect, and which allowed for freedom of association. These immigrants were accustomed to the European model of labour relations, where there was freedom of association, and where one could choose from a variety of unions. In Canada, however, people who disagreed with the policies of their union had no option to opt out of the union of their workplace, other than to work in a non-unionized shop. Many non-unionized shops had lower safety and wage standards than unionized shops. A group of these immigrants met on numerous occasions in the early 1950s, and on February 20, 1952 the Christian Labour Association (CLAC) was founded.
Frans Fuykschot was appointed general secretary of CLAC and opened the union’s first office, in Hamilton, Ontario. Soon after, the first issue of The Guide, the official CLAC magazine, was published.
Although the founders of CLAC were Christian, and wanted their union to be based on Christian social principles, they never required members to be Christian.
CLAC began to gain popularity and workers joined it. Even workers who were part of other unions joined as a way to show their support for the union. Within two years, CLAC started applying for its first certifications.
In 1954 CLAC applied for certifications in BC and Ontario. The BC Labour Relations Board granted certification to a CLAC local, but the Ontario Labour Relations Board denied certification based on a technicality. However, the Board expressed its concern with the fact that CLAC was based on Christian principles, believing that it would discriminate against non-Christian workers.
After CLAC was granted certification in BC, the AFL-CIO, a labour federation based in the US, threatened CLAC publicly, and took job action against CLAC members. Because of the Ontario Labour Board’s decision that CLAC’s constitution was discriminatory, BC later refused CLAC’s recertification application.
CLAC repeatedly tried to gain certification in Ontario, and was repeatedly denied on the basis of being discriminatory, despite the fact that the founders had further clarified the constitution in 1959 to state specifically that members and applicants did not have to personally accept the Christian values that the union was based on, and that applicants wouldn’t be discriminated against based on religion."
Even though CLAC wasn’t allowed to put in place collective agreements or officially represent workers, people continued to join the union and send in dues money because they believed in the organization. Workers who were known to be affiliated with CLAC were often harassed and intimidated by other union members. Other unions told their members to stop working as soon as CLAC members showed up on a job site.
The pressure from outside the organization led to internal pressures. Some members wanted to take out the language in the constitution that stated that CLAC was based on Christian principles (Article 2). The arguments led the union to split in 1958, with Fuykschot and several others leaving to establish a new union—the Christian Trade Unions of Canada. The CTUC did not refer to the Bible in the basis of its constitution. The CTUC quickly received certification.
Frustrated by the Ontario Labour Board’s repeated refusal to recognize CLAC locals, CLAC applied for a judicial review by the Ontario Supreme Court of the Labour Board’s refusal to grant certification to CLAC Local 52. In 1963, Chief Justice McRuer issued a decision disagreeing with the Labour Board’s refusal to certify CLAC, saying that the Board had erred in three ways: first, in allowing old, irrelevant evidence to be used in making its decision; second, in misinterpreting the anti-discriminatory statute, and thus misapplying it to CLAC; and finally, in denying CLAC certification without any legal basis. Justice McRuer found that neither CLAC’s constitution nor its practices were discriminatory. He ordered the Board’s decision to be quashed, and CLAC gained the right to certify locals.
Practices and policies
In negotiating wages and benefits for its members, the CLAC considers the "economic viability of the enterprise". The association espouses open shops as an expression of the principle of free association and as a balance between individual and collective interests. They represent more than 58.000 workers under some 550 collective agreements across Canada; more than 15,000 of their workers are in Alberta. The membership is concentrated in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, in sectors such as construction, social services, health care, emergency services, transportation, retail, education, hospitality, and manufacturing.
The CLAC's members fund a variety of benefit programs such as health and disability insurance, pension and retirement plans, apprenticeship subsidies, training grants, layoff assistance, and a strike fund. The association operates training centres in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, funded through negotiated education and training funds.
The association has about 200 full-time staff working from 12 regional offices, two benefit administration offices, and its training centres. The Guide, the CLAC’s official magazine, is published four times per year.
Unlike most of the Canadian labour movement, the CLAC is not affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Furthermore, they were suspended from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), a global labour organization with affiliates comprising 175 million workers around the world, after the ITUC concluded that "by its published policy and by its activity CLAC indeed undermines labour conditions of workers". CLAC disputes ITUC’s reasons for the suspension, noting that it has been certified over 2,000 times by labour boards across Canada. The Court of Queen's Bench for Saskatchewan rejected allegations that CLAC is a "company dominated organization". The suspension came at the request of the CLC, whose affiliated unions compete with the CLAC, and Ken Georgetti, the CLC president at the time, who was also a Vice-President and member of the Executive Board of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). CLAC was not granted a hearing before ITUC’s General Council. At its National Convention on September 14, 2012, CLAC delegates voted to resign from ITUC and join the World Organization of Workers (WOW). CLAC joined ITUC in 2006 as a founding member but no longer believes that ITUC respects union pluralism or workers’ right to freedom of association and therefore cannot be a reliable partner in the cause of international justice for workers.
CLAC operates training centres in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, and through these centres, provides many different types of courses, from industry-specific courses to general courses. CLAC also sends trainers to work sites for company-specific training, and operates computer based courses. They offer scholarships, bursaries, and apprenticeship bursaries.
CLAC provides career services to help workers find work and employers find workers. They run this service for members and non-members from their offices in Alberta, BC, Manitoba,Ontario, and Saskatchewan.
CLAC runs two retirement savings plans—a pension plan and a Group RSP.
The pension plan was established in 1974, and is available for members across Canada. It is a registered defined contribution plan, which means that contributions are made every month and vested directly in the member—employers do not have access to the pension fund. The fund is overseen by a Board of Trustees, invested by outside professionals, and audited by an accounting firm.
CLAC offers numerous group benefit plans, which are run through the Health and Welfare Trust Fund. There are two Benefit Administration offices. Western benefits are handled out of Edmonton, Alberta, while Eastern benefits are handled out of Grimsby, Ontario.
The health and welfare benefits provide coverage for needs such as vision, dental, and prescription drugs, life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, and an employee and family assistance program to help with personal difficulties. Coverage levels vary between collective agreements.
CLAC provides a workplace wellness program to members who have it negotiated in their collective agreement. The program was founded in 2009 in BC and is slowly expanding into other provinces where CLAC represents workers.
Unions argue that employers are quick to voluntarily recognize the CLAC because of the CLAC's willingness to undercut industry-standard wages and working conditions that other unions struggled to improve. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the CLAC has helped employers in British Columbia circumvent the Employment Standards Act by agreeing to contracts that provide less than the minimums afforded by law. (A provision of the Act is that it does not apply to workers represented by a union.) The CLAC is regarded by scholars as a danger to the Trade Union movement and a threat to collective action to the benefit of workers. Scholars often suggest that the CLAC is a company union in as much as many of its provisions are company-oriented and deceptive to workers. Examples of such practices include the union under-cutting the wages of other unions in order to secure work for its members at sub standard conditions.
CLAC has been providing financial aid to workers around the world for twenty-five years through its solidarity locals, which are made up of CLAC by members who are not directly represented by the union, but who believe in the work it does. Through the CLAC Foundation, the efforts and ability to aid struggling workers and their families have been expanded. Now, CLAC, its members, signatory companies, and the general public can donate to various causes through the foundation. Projects include providing training for tradespeople in areas hit by natural disasters, supporting the China Labour Bulletin, helping workers in Canada prepare to re-enter the workforce, and raising awareness about the issues affecting workers around the world.
- Construction Workers Local 6 (CLAC) represents construction workers in south-central and south-western Ontario. It was formed in 1960 as part of CTUC and merged with CLAC in 1979.
- Construction Workers Local 52 (CLAC) represents construction workers in Ontario, primarily north and east of Toronto. It was formed in 1960.
- Construction Workers Local 53 (CLAC) represents construction workers in and around Windsor, Sarnia, Chatham, and London, Ontario. It was formed in 1962.
- Construction Workers Union Local 63 (CLAC) represents construction workers throughout Alberta. It is CLAC’s largest local and was formed in 1966. In 2002, Construction Workers Association Local 65 was merged with Local 63.
- General and Allied Workers Union Local 67 (CLAC) represents construction workers in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. It was formed in 1972 under the name Metal, Transport & Warehouse Employees Association Local No.67.
- Construction and Allied Workers’ Union Local 68 (CLAC) represents construction workers in British Columbia. It was formed in 1973.
- Construction Workers Local 150 (CLAC) represents construction workers in Ontario, primarily in St. Catharines. It was formed in 1975.
- Construction Workers Union Local 151 (CLAC) represents construction workers in Saskatchewan. It was formed in 1984 but became dormant in 1992 when the government of Saskatchewan disallowed all unions, except for certain trade unions, from representing workers in the construction industry. Local 151 was re-certified in 2010 once the restrictions were struck down by Bill 80.
- Construction Workers Union Local 152 (CLAC) represents construction workers in Manitoba. It was formed in 1986.
Manufacturing and Transportation Locals
- Pre-Board Screeners, Logistics, Manufacturing and Allied Trades Union Local 56 (CLAC) represents transportation and manufacturing workers, primarily in Alberta. It was established in 1964 under the name Edson Truck Drivers and Warehousemen Association No. 56 and Transport, Warehousemen and Allied Trades Association No. 56.
- Transport, Construction and General Employees Association Local 66 (CLAC) primarily represents transportation, warehouse, and dock workers in British Columbia. It was formed in 1971.
- Manufacturing, Transportation & Allied Workers Union Local 519 (CLAC) represents manufacturing workers in Chatham, Ontario. It was formed in 2001.
- British Columbia Transportation and Warehousing Association, Local 402 (CLAC) represents workers in transportation and warehousing in British Columbia. It was formed in 2012.
Health Care and Service Locals
- Health Care and Service Employee’ Union Local 301 (CLAC) represents healthcare and service workers, and voice-over professionals in Alberta. It was formed in 1983.
- Niagara Health Care and Service Workers Union Local 302 (CLAC) represents healthcare and service workers in the Niagara region. It was formed in 1988.
- Southwestern Ontario Health Care and Service Workers Union local 303 (CLAC) represents healthcare, home care, child care, and service workers, primarily in and around London and Chatham, Ontario. It was formed in 2001.
- Health Care and Service Workers Union Local 304 (CLAC) represents healthcare, home care, and service workers in south-central Ontario. It was formed in 2001.
- Grand River Valley Health Care Employees Union Local 305 (CLAC) represents retirement and nursing home workers in and around Hamilton, Brantford, Cambridge, and Stratford, Ontario. It was formed in 2005.
- Service, Health and Allied Workers Union, Local 501 (CLAC) represents retirement, healthcare, social service, hospitality, manufacturing, and service workers in British Columbia. It was formed in 1975.
Volunteer Firefighters Locals
- Greater Hamilton Volunteer Firefighters Association Local 911 (CLAC) represents volunteer firefighters in Hamilton. It was formed in 2004.
- Eastern Ontario Volunteer Firefighters Association Local 920 (CLAC) represents volunteer firefighters in Belleville and Quinte West. It was formed in 2005.
- Education, Service, and Health Care Union Local 306 (CLAC) represents education assistants and custodians near Steinbach and Winkler. It was formed in 2007.
- Independent Educators Association, Local 62 (CLAC)
- General Workers Union Local 504 (CLAC) represents workers in Saskatchewan. It was formed in 2010.
- Security and Service Workers Union, Local 503 (CLAC) represents security workers in Hamilton, Ontario. It was formed in 1999.
- CLAC Local 1 is a local for CLAC retirees. It was formed in 2010.
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- CLAC. "CLAC Programs". Training, Benefits, Insurance. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
- CLAC. "CLAC Surpasses 2,000th Certification". Retrieved 2011-12-12.
- CLAC. "Old Labour Tries to Oust CLAC from ITUC". Retrieved 2011-12-12.
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- CLAC. "Western Benefits". Retrieved 2011-06-21.
- CLAC. "Eastern Benefits". Retrieved 2011-06-21.
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- www.clac.ca - Official website.
- www.clacblog.ca - Blog written by CLAC executive director, Dick Heinen.
- www.hanksblog.ca - Blog written by CLAC Ontario provincial director, Hank Beekhuis.
- www.atimetocare.ca - A campaign by CLAC for more government funding to increase elderly care time to 3.5 hours per day.
- www.thetruthaboutclac.ca - A website critical of CLAC produced by the Alberta Federation of Labour.
- www.thetruthaboutclac.com - A website operated by CLAC.
- www.wownetwork.be - World Organization of Workers official website.