Thursday, October 30, 2014

UFCW's Anti-Democratic Position on Sudbury Store Hours Referendum Outcome Reflects Poorly on Labour Movement

So, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) is claiming victory in the recent referendum on store hours in the City of Greater Sudbury. 3 questions were asked of voters with regards to changing the by-laws which currently prohibit stores from setting their own hours, and opening on the August Civic Holiday and Boxing Day. By pretty healthy majorities (between 60% and 75%), voters in Greater Sudbury said “Yes” to the proposed changes. However, the Ontario Municipal Act requires 50% of eligible voters to vote on each question or else the referendum results are non-binding. While voter turn out in Greater Sudbury was just over 50%, not everyone voted on the questions, meaning that no question met the 50% threshold.

Although UFCW did not register as a lobbyist for the referendum question (only lobbyists were allowed to campaign for or against the questions), they are nevertheless now interjecting themselves into our democratic processes – after the fact. Today, the Sudbury Star is reporting that a member of the UFCW's region 8 is insisting that since the questions failed on the 50% threshold, that the matter has been resolved. “It's a done issue, and we should move on.” (see: "Both sides claim victory", the Sudbury Star, October 30, 2014).

As a supporter of democracy, I absolutely agree with the Union's rep – but clearly, not in the same way that the Union sees it. The electorate, in its wisdom, made a clear declaration to the City through a democratic process. The 50% threshold is simply one which would bind Council to take action. The threshold itself is not a part of any expression of democratic will – at least not in a democratic process which does not require everyone is eligible to participate.

UFCW is doing itself no favours in this community – not for itself, and not for the broader labour movement. By trying to confound the democratic expression of voters through a semantic – and frankly, quite silly – argument based on the idea that 50% turn-out of eligible voters is necessary to interpret the results as an expression of the will of the electorate. Frankly, this is an anti-democratic position to adopt.

As a long-time supporter of the labour movement, and as a current union member, I am appalled the UFCW has taken the extraordinary position that the expression of a majority of voters should be discarded in this circumstance. Their position is not democratic – and it will only enrage and provide more fodder to those who are actively working to under the labour movement.

Shame on UFCW.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Party of Canada)

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