A New Day for Freedom?

If there ever was a controversy marked by bitter disagreement and utter confusion, it is the one centered around labour unions and their power to force all employees to join or support them as a condition of employment. Although the secular unions pay lip service to freedom of association, they heatedly defend their “right” to compel all workers into their ranks.

The unions’ drive to seize complete control over employment opportunities by means of compulsory unionism is not new. The controversy of freedom of association versus the closed shop has raged ever since unions were first fanned. Workers who did little or nothing while the unions struggled against employers paying low wages and providing bad working conditions were denounced as traitors to the cause.

At first unions were even considered to be illegal, and most employers opposed them with all their superior might. The “yellow dog” contract, whereby employees were forced to promise not to join a union, was commonplace. All this has changed, and unions are no longer weak and downtrodden. Their power has grown immensely in terms of numbers, money, and influence—reaching even into politics.

Despite this tremendous change, the secular unions are still unalterably committed to compulsion. Their lust for power has increased in the measure that they have gained strength and influence. The “success” of their efforts to seize control is evident from the fact that in many cities and towns across the U.S.A. and Canada it is difficult to find employment without being compelled to support a union. This means that Christian workers are faced with the demand to support and even pledge allegiance to unions which completely disregard God’s honour and authority. Christians cannot do this, and therefore they often find themselves in great difficulty when seeking suitable employment. Indeed, this is one of the great injustices of our day, and no one of us can say that it is of no concern to him. The attitude of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is dead wrong.

Why is it that unions are successful in destroying freedom of association? Are workers not protected against this kind of dictatorship by a Bill of Rights guaranteeing all citizens certain fundamental rights, including freedom of association? In theory they have this freedom, but unions have callously disregarded it, abetted by compromising politicians who legalized compulsory unionism.

When the socialists were in power in Saskatchewan, they even passed a law stipulating that the union shop must be granted when requested by a union. To my knowledge, this is the only government on the North American continent which completely capitulated to the trade unions’ totalitarian ambitions. In all other instances where the union shop is allowed, it is (still) a matter to be agreed on by organized labour and management.

Nineteen states in the U.S.A. have passed so-called right-to-work laws, often with the vigorous backing of the National Right-to-Work Committee and always over the bitter opposition of the secular labour unions. The authority under which these state right-to-work laws are passed is section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act.

The secular unions in the U.S.A. have declared war on section 14(b). They obviously fear that workers may not desire to join their unions, if union membership is a matter of choice.

Repeal of section 14(b) is the AFL-CIO’s number 1 legislative goal for 1965 (See The American Federationist, April, 1965). Now that Congress is “liberal” and since President Johnson has pledged his support of repeal, the AFLCIO is determined to get its way.

The appalling thing about the unions’ determination to gain exclusive control over all workers is that they conceal their real intention by means of deceptive language. Thus, their current drive to destroy freedom of association is called a “campaign to restore free collective bargaining,” which goes to prove that when two say the same thing, they do not necessarily mean the same.

The Committee for Justice and Liberty, incorporated as C.J.L. Foundation, was formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1961, by several Christians who were deeply disturbed about the secular unions’ dictatorial control over employment opportunities. With growing concern they saw that Christian workers were often placed before a cruel dilemma. They were shocked by the unions’ indifference to constitutional rights and Christian freedom. They noted that union dictatorship often led to abuse. Rank and file union members were unable to defend themselves, since the unions held the power over their livelihood. If they did not fall in line…out they went!

Many instances of union abuse have been uncovered and described in Sylvester Petro’s Power Unlimited, a shocking account of the findings by the McClellan Committee; in the report of Mr. Justice Norris, who was commissioned by the Canadian Government to investigate the hoodlum-ridden Seafarers’ International Union; in Lester Velie’s Labor U.S.A. and in Robert Kennedy’s The Enemy Within, to name but a few.

The founders of the Committee fully respect the workers’ right to organize. All of them support the Christian Labour Association of Canada. However, they refuse to accept the pragmatic arguments advanced by the unions in defense of essentially totalitarian practices. The Committee realizes that the unions’ arguments: “all workers benefit, therefore they should support the union,” “it is merely an application of democracy’s rule of the majority,” “the union shop promotes labour peace,” “it increases wages and benefits,” “those who are opposed to the union shop are anti-labour,” and a host of others are just so many arguments that ignore the real issue and arise from a man-centered view of human relations. The real issue concerns man’s opportunity and duty freely to order life in accordance with the Word of God. Therefore, the Committee decided to take up the challenge and brave the fury of secular unions for attacking what in the eyes of many is like a sacred cow and a basic trade union principle.

The Committee was convinced that something had to be done to expose and halt the dictatorial practices of the secular unions. We understood that something fundamental was at stake. We knew that the religious neutrality of the unions was in reality a deliberate refusal to acknowledge the all-inclusive authority of God’s Word. We became increasingly convinced that workers should be free to form unions of their choice. including unions through which we can serve Jesus Christ, the Ruler over all things. The Committee’s objectives are set out as follows:

1. To carry on a programme of education, based on the Word of God. for the promotion of justice and liberty in the field of labour relations.

2. To promote the recognition of the God-given right of all persons to employment and the provision of employment.

3. To secure those rights by appropriate legislation.

4. To advise governments, organizations and persons of situations where justice and liberty in the field of labour relations are infringed.

5. To promote, assist in and advance such research as will further the cause of justice and liberty in the field of labour relations.

6. To assist, advise and educate all persons who experience difficulty in exercising their right of employment.

Although the Committee has no full-time staff (as yet), it has become involved in various cases to defend the workers’ freedom of association. Much of the work is done by members who freely give of their time and energy after their regular hours of work. The staff of the Christian Labour Association of Canada, with which the Committee maintains close relations, is also deeply involved in the work of the Committee.

The regular activities of the Committee consist of helping and advising individual workers who encounter difficulty because of the secular unions’ disregard for freedom of association. In addition, the Committee avails itself of all opportunities to drive home the need to reform labour legislation. We do so by presenting briefs and petitions to governments and government-appointed commissions, to employers and unions, and by writing letters and publishing articles. At times the Committee undertakes court action. These activities involve hours and days of preparation and much money. We enjoy the services of a highly competent and respected legal adviser in the person of Mr. B. A. Kelsey, who is associated with one of Toronto’s leading law finns. Mr. Kelsey is untiring in giving advice, preparing briefs, and presenting our case before the Courts.

The Committee’s first brief in defense of freedom of association was presented to the Government of Ontario. This action evoked extensive press coverage. Over the years other presentations followed, including those to the Governments of Alberta and Nova Scotia, to the famous Norris Commission appointed by the Canadian government and, recently, to the Royal Commission Inquiry into Civil Rights of Ontario. (Some of these briefs were co-sponsored by the Christian Labour Association of Canada; one of them by the Christian Action Foundation of Alberta.)

In the brief to the Civil Rights Inquiry Commission we assert that 1) any form of compulsory unionism abridges freedom of speech and association; 2) compulsory unionism constitutes a form of discrimination; 3) the rights of the individual employee must be recognized; and 4) there should be a right of appeal fro m decisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Board. In defense of these submissions, the Committee states, among other things:

It is our submission that it is the duty of the Government to protect the God-given right of all citizens to employment. This right is fundamental and demands full freedom of opportunity for all to engage in occupations which they are able and willing to fulfill. The failure of the Government to prevent compulsory unionism is a denial of this right and deprives men of their livelihood. As was said by Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, “You take my house, when you do take the prop that doth sustain my house; you take my life, when you take the means whereby I live.”

The right that we refer to is of course the right to employment in a free society and not as it is understood in a totalitarian state. In the Marxist sense. the right to employment is interpreted as embracing a guarantee of employment by an all-powerful state which controls the means of production and the access to employment. In our free society. the phrase signifies the God-given right of every citizen freely to seek and retain the gainful employment which he desires, unfettered by the imposition of unreasonable or discriminatory conditions.

We are committed to the view that a trade union fulfills its proper task only when it seeks to put into practice Scriptural social principles. The religious principles of many people forbid or prevent them from lending support of any kind to an organization which is not committed to the Christian concept of labour relations, but which 011 the contrary is committed to a secular or to an anti-christian view of life. Many trade unions adhere to the Marxist concept of unceasing war between what they conceive to be the managing and labouring classes. Some openly advance a materialistic theory of relations between employer and employee, and almost all are committed to a purely rationalistic or humanistic view of commercial enterprise and the relationships of those who participate therein. To compel these individuals to join or financially support such a trade union is effectively to impose on them a God-less ideology and thereby subject them to a specious form of discrimination.

In addition, many trade unions support directly and Indirectly the New Democratic Party, which is committed to socialism. For example, the United Steelworkers of America was a moving force behind and a founding_member of that Party. To require an employee whose political convictions are opposed to those advanced by that Party to support the Steelworkers is political discrimination. There is admittedly a right of employees to join a trade union which subscribes to certain political principles, but there is equally a right not to join and not to so subscribe. The recent case of the Bergsma’s, the two people in Hamilton who were refused Canadian citizenship because of their avowed atheism, illustrates this point. The argument hi favour of admitting them to citizenship has been that freedom of religion is part of the Canadian Constitution, and that this freedom includes the right to be an atheist. The argument therefore is that in refusing citizenship to these people, the Citizenship Court is practicing discrimination. Surely the principle of religious and political freedom applies equally to workers who affirm, as does the Bill of Rights, “that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God,” and to workers who choose not to support secular trade unions and which may subscribe to political principles inconsistent with their own.

Recently the Committee scored a notable success. After a local of the powerful United Steelworkers of America caused three Christian workers to be fired for their refusal to support this socialist union, the Committee warned that it would initiate court action unless the men were re-instated. Shortly afterwards, the Steelworkers served notice that the men could resume their employment at the same firm!

A case is now pending before the Supreme Court of Ontario on behalf of Mr. Tony Van Manen who, because of his Christian conviction, refuses to support the socialist Canadian Union of Public Employees. It speaks for itself that the outcome of this action is closely watched.

The most important project of the Committee is the at· tempt to challenge the legality of compulsory unionism in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. This action was initiated after Mr. Clarence Mostert was fired from his job at a diesel repair shop in Vancouver for his refusal to join a secular union. Mr. Mostert was ordered to join Lodge No. 692 of the International Association of Machinists. ‘This union is affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress, which helped to organize the socialist New Democratic Party and now actively supports the aims of this political party. The I.A.M. rejects the authority of the Bible. Its constitution states that “…it is impossible for those who toil to obtain full reward for their labour other than through united action…through organizations founded upon the class struggle.” Lodge No. 692 refused to respect Mr. Mostert’s convictions, and it demanded that he be dismissed. The company, although reluctant to let this employee go, terminated his employment on a day’s notice.

The Committee realizes that this court case is crucial, and that success is by no means guaranteed. Involved in this court case is an attack on the generally held belief in the notion of neutrality, which in reality is of course but another word for humanism. Since the belief of humanism dominates Canadian society and has strongly influenced labour relations and legislation, it will not be easy to get a favourable decision from the courts. The unions, anxious to retain their totalitarian grip, will leave no stone unturned to defeat the Committee’s efforts. If the B. C. Supreme Court rules in the Committee’s favour, the secular unions will no doubt appeal the decision. It is therefore expected that this court case will end up before the Supreme Court of Canada, at the cost of huge sums of money.

Despite the tremendous obstacles in the way of the Committee, its supporters are convinced that the work must go on. In dependence on the sovereign Ruler of the universe, we wish to stand up for justice and truth and liberty, for we are convinced that the honour of God is at stake. In the promotional pamphlet of the Committee it is stated as follows:

The compulsion practised in the form of compulsory unionism, which makes membership in or support of a trade union a condition of employment, is completely unjustified. We are convinced that this type of compulsion is the result of a deplorable lack of insight into and appreciation for the true character of freedom and free institutions. We believe that freedom is only possible where men are set free from the enslaving power of sin by the renewing and redeeming work of Christ. This Biblical truth forms the background and framework in which we view true freedom and its implications in our society.

Much more remains to be done. The Committee is anxious to appoint a well qualified, full-time staff, which would then be able to devote all its energy to this work. It hopes that increased support from Christians everywhere will soon make such appointments possible.

The Scriptures clearly show that the battle between the Kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness will be fought bitterly in the economic sphere. Those who bear not the marks of the beast on their hands and foreheads will be cast out. Who will deny that the present oppression of Christian workers by ruthless and power-hungry unions is entirely unrelated to that kind of persecution? But this should not cause Christians to be defeatists. On the contrary, they are called conquerors in the Bible—more than that! That is why they never need to worry about what time it is on God’s clock of history. Every day is His, and we may dedicate everything we do to His service. That includes ow winless and work in defense of the justice and liberty that will enable God’s people to serve Him according to His Word.

The Committee’s work must not be considered as an effort to secure certain benefits for a select few. Rather, it is an attempt to seek the well-being of all. For men will be blessed and life will truly flourish when God’s Word is heeded and His rule observed.

The Committee receives much publicity via the news media. Sometimes the reaction is negative, but increasingly we receive assurances of support from various quarters. For example, the influential Kingston Whig-Standard editorially supported the Committee’s plans to take court action on be half of Mr. Mostert. The editor finished his remarks as follows:

This will be the test case and it has been too long in coming…

It may be that a new day of freedom for the individual worker is about to dawn in Canada.

Let us pray and work for the dawn of such a day, in anticipation of the day when Christ shall return to establish perfect justice and liberty on a new earth!

NOTE: Those who wish to support the work of the Committee or desire more information, including complete texts of the various submissions and briefs presented by the Committee, arc invited to write to the C.J.L. Foundation, P.O. Box 151, Rexdale, Ontario, Canada.

Strange as it may seem, the liberals who always protest that they so much seek to safeguard the liberties of all men are ranging themselves overwhelmingly on the side of compulsory unionism. This is the latest drive to destroy freedom of association.

What this means to the Christian believer who seeks in all things consistently to serve the Lord Christ and how the “Committee for Justice and Liberty” seeks to defend our freedom to serve God according to His Word are discussed by Mr. Harry Antonides, representative of the foundation. Here is reading which should stir us to thought, prayer and Christian action.