Employers, Not Unions, Threaten and Intimidate Unionizing Workers – AFL

New report shows employers responsible for over 90% of upheld Alberta Labour Relations Board rulings since 2001, not unions

Edmonton—While allegations of union “thugs” and employer intimidation are often thrown around, the evidence proves that if anyone is being thuggish, it’s employers.

The recently passed Bill 17: Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act spurred right-wing allegations of union threats and intimidation tactics during union certification drives, but the evidence paints a decisively different picture. Poisoning the Well, a new report analyzing Alberta Labour Relations Board rulings – which include threats, intimidation, coercion, and other Alberta Labour Relations Code violations – shows that employers are responsible for the overwhelming majority of both complaints and rulings since 2001. During this period, the Board saw 34 unfair labour practice cases related to certification drives, with 28 complaints brought against employers and only six against unions. Of these, 17 complaints against employers were fully upheld, contrasted with only a single procedural complaint upheld against a union.

“The key thing to remember is that when workers try to unionize their workplace, the union has no power over those workers. The employer has all the power—to fire workers, to cut their hours, and to intimidate them,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “Our old labour laws didn’t meaningfully restrict the ability of employers to use that power to violate the rights of workers to freely choose for themselves.”

The report includes cases of employers firing employees for joining or associating with a union, threatening to close shops, and using intimidation tactics to prevent free and fair certification votes. It also found that the prescribed remedies did little to discourage employers from violating the Code.

“Simply put, employers in this province knew they could violate the Code to keep their workplace union free with almost no repercussions,” said McGowan, “This has led to a culture of employer impunity.”

Bill 17: Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act will give the Alberta Labour Relations Board crucial tools and remedies to discourage employer intimidation during union certification drives. Most notably, the Board will soon have the power to implement strict timelines for certification votes, and new remedies with real penalties for those who violate the Code.

“These changes are long overdue and will ensure Albertan workers have access to the same protections long enjoyed by other Canadians.”

Link to report: Poisoning the Well

For further information, please contact

Janelle Morin, Director of Communications

780-278-3640 or