Unions vs. Canada


By now, most of you know about the closing of Devlin, Ont.,-based Gingrich Woodcraft, following a vote by employees to unionize the shop last August 17.

Union officials quoted in the media seem to want this to be a matter of law and faith. For example, Stephen Boon, national representative for Unifor, the involved union, said in the Ft. Frances Times, the Devlin-based manufacturer called about 25 employees and fired them without notice.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

“It is almost inconceivable that in a country like Canada in 2015, we are dealing with an employer that is willing to take the position that the Constitution and Ontario labour laws somehow do not apply to employees of Mennonite-operated businesses,” said Boon. “Despite the fact that several Mennonite operations across Canada are already unionized, Gingrich management has taken the shocking stance that their ‘faith’ requires employees either remain non-union, and therefore underpaid and exploited, or instead be fired.” he added.

Inconceivable, indeed. I suppose Boon also considers Mennonite Leon Gingrich a liar because he claims his faith prevents him from working with unions. I can’t say anything about Gingrich’s personal faith. I do, however, note that Boon points to other “Mennonite-operated businesses” that have knelt before the throne of labour as an example of what is required of Gingrich.

But let’s not try this one in the press. I would rather look at Unifor. You may recall in 2012 I wrote an e-letter reporting on the impending formation of a new, mega-union in Canada that would comprise all the resources of two of Canada’s already-strongest unions. In Unifor’s own words: “Unifor was officially formed on August 31, 2013…. It marked the coming together of the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).”

You heard that right: communications. As in the press.

Unifor further goes on to say, “We are committed to building the strongest and most effective union to bargain on behalf of our members, working with our members to improve their rights in the workplace, and extending the benefits of unions to non-unionized workers and other interested Canadians.”Construction union wage index

You can read into that whatever you like.

Wood Industry also exposed the union presence on the board of the Wood Manufacturing Council and warned of its implications to the industry.

Boon says, “We often read about bully companies in Third World countries willing to crush union organizing drives to eliminate dissent and keep wages low.”

Well, maybe we need to read about bully unions. The way I read it, 25 bullies got a club together and went to beat on Gingrich. He shut the door. Is Boon really saying that 25 disaffected workers can force a man to work for no reason other than to pay them? I call that slavery.

But let’s look at that “keep wages low” clause. It’s in the chart at left. Have your employees’ wages increased 16 percent since 2008? Have yours? Can you increase wages 16 percent and stay in business? Unions tend to think they can see past balance sheets and costs. I think we can see past union dogma, and I think we can report on what we see.

This is the 10th anniversary issue of Wood Industry. I cannot say in words how much we have appreciated and loved working with each of you, in every corner of Canada, and I cannot express how much your letters and calls have meant.

I don’t have much to offer in return, except this. I promise to continue to provide the secondary wood-products industry in Canada with the highest standards, the most research, the best writing and the fairest information in North America.

And, God willing, we will do it for the next 10 years.

  • So maybe the workers were approached by union officials with the same old story, we can get you more wages, benefits and if you want a day off, no problem, we have your back.
    I was a union rep in the old UAW back in the day, so I know with what i speak
    I took the mandatory 4 week leadership course and it was a brainwashing exercise, to say the least.
    After 9 months, and defending the same guy for drinking on the job, he was a lift truck driver, I refused to defend him after his 4th time, it could have been me he dumped 50,000 lbs of tubing on . So I refused to defend and was fired by union next day.
    There was a need for Unions 50 to 100 years ago.Today, the pendulum needs to swing back the company direction.
    I sympathize with Mr. Gingrich, his livelihood has been torpedoed.

  • Kerry , unions vs canada, really?
    I can see from your comments that you are anti union .
    So be it.
    To be fair to those former workers of Gingrich Woodcraft what were their reasons for wanting to join a union? It’s my understanding that if workers are treated well there is no need for a union.
    You also show a chart for construction union wage rate .Most of these construction jobs would be involved with government contracts or large commercial contracts.
    A chart of non union employees involved in construction would show a different picture.
    I am a self employed cabinetmaker and have worked for non union shops , some good, some bad.

    Thank you

    Randy Parry

    • Hi, Randy,
      While you are not far off on your observation, I don’t see myself so much as anti-union, as pro-human. People need jobs. Industry supplies jobs. Therefore, I am typically pro-industry. I ask often for examples of industries that have been advanced by unions, and so far see none. I often, however, see industries that are damaged by unions. The protocol seems impossible.

      Business are owned by people. As a business owner, I hire people. When I was an employee, I regarded my time as being purchased. That is, from the start of work to the end, my time belonged to the company. Therefore, I would see taking unapproved time off as stealing, but that’s another topic.

      However, when a union takes over the work force, it claims authority over the time of the employee, and the employee’s behaviour. When a conflict occurs over the employee’s time or duties, the union threatens, and so on. Unlike the wisdom of the ages, the unions claim you CAN serve two masters. You obey the union, and you get paid by the company.

      This is not to say all unions and all shops are headed to hell in a hand basket. Some unions recognize they are unwise to kill the host. Others, no so much.

      Like you, I have worked in union and non-union shops, and many of my current friends belong, willingly or unwillingly to unions. One fellow was a union enforcer before his retirement, and was called in from the outside to negotiate with obstinate business managers. He is a strong character. Others of my friends work at auto manufacturing plants, are policemen or have other union jobs. In each case, I imagine he or she is better off financially with a union doing the negotiating. The negotiator, in particular, would likely have had no job at all, had he not found a place in the union.

      But I am concerned about manufacturing. The people you asked about at Gingrich were working for a wage they found acceptable. That must be true, since slavery is not practiced in most of Canada. Anybody that did not like the job at Gingrich could have quit.

      On the other hand, I am quite sure some or none of the Gingrich employees were paid what they thought they were worth. This is not unique to Gingrich employees, and it is rare to find a person that thinks he or she is getting paid what they are worth. Just curious… we all know of unions that want to share in the success of the business owner’s venture. Have you ever heard of one that wanted to share in the losses?

      The still larger concern, on my part, is that Leon Gingrich says he has a moral interdiction against unions, and he cannot morally allow one to take over his work force. I don’t know Gingrich, particularly, so I can’t say. However, the Bible makes mention of landowners and vineyard workers. In one story, the owner paid three groups of field workers the same pay, but one group worked all day, one worked only half a day and the last group worked only an hour. Given the allegory, the folks in the first group were free to complain about the owner’s management, and they did, and risked spending eternity in hell.

      Not fair, eh?


      • Hey Kerry
        You’re not anti-union you’re pro-human and if you hire someone and they don’t like it they can quit. If you don’t see how ridiculous these comments are you should quit writing editorials. Gingrich admitted violating the law and agreed to pay each worker 35 weeks pay as compensation for violating the law by firing his workers because they unionized. This is no longer debate about whether he did wrong or not and you somehow trying to defend a law breaker because you happen to dislike unions is a poor representation of the wood industry you claim to speak for.

        • I think it is the frustrated dream of everybody that offers a forum for public discussion that people will engage in ideas and reasoned debate. Universally, they seem to end up with accusations that anybody with a different opinion is an idiot, is ignorant, or, worst of all, should be enjoined from ever speaking again.

          It has been stated that Gingrich has broken the law. I respond with two points:

          1. There seems to be disagreement with that verdict, rendered before charges, discovery or trial. Or, if it is evident on its face that Gingrich broke the law, somebody needs to provide a citation. As it stands on this discussion, there is no evidence, no citation and no legal argument.

          2. Even if Gingrich broke the law, there is plenty of precedent for breaking laws one thinks are immoral or contrary to their religious beliefs. Gingrich has cited religion for his decision, and nobody had made the case it is not.

          A third point to consider is this. Let’s say I have a non-union widget factory. I am not making any money, as the economy in the U.S. has killed the demand for widgets. I am just holding on, losing money and hoping the tide will change.

          The union comes along and gets the factory certified. Faced with the almost certain threat of a strike and subsequent unrecoverable losses, I decide to close the factory. Now, if the union goes to court and gets an order that I must keep the factory open, must keep financing my own losses and must meet the demands of the union or endure a strike, am I not, then, a subject of the union masters? I mean, if a union can force me to work for no pay, am I not a slave?

          Thanks for the discussion.


  • I know there is an anti-union bias here, but this editorial borders on lunacy and doesn’t match the statement about FAIR information the author refers to. Gingrich outright declared he was closing because his workers unionized and we all know this is against the law whether we like the law or not. He didn’t even wait a week and even see what the workers wanted and clearly if he had treated them in a “Christian way” they likely wouldn’t want or need a union. If he had gone thru the bargaining process been unable to reach a fair deal and then closed I may sympathize – he refused to even sit down and listen and speaks volumes as it shows a pretty clear lack of respect for his workers when u refuse to even try to negotiate as required by law. And whether the author likes it or agrees – ITS THE LAW! Ginrich does have the right it’s his business and no one can make him run it, but now he will pay $500,000 in wages and lose his business which all falls on him and his stubborn beliefs. Canada is a country of laws and although the author may hate unions, he is living in a dream world to try and turn gingrich into the victim here because he wishes unions are 100% evil and have no place in north america

  • I haven’t read a commentary in a professional forum so biased and amateur in a long time. Unions are enslaving Gingrich because his workers chose to unionize as the law permits and he chose to manipulate the bible to support working with a union. Come on, the guy didn’t even sit down to see what the workers wanted and if the real opinion here is unions should be barred from bargaining, i’m sorry but this is canada not southern alabama. I can only assume author of this commentary sipped a bit to much whiskey already at start of long weekend because very poorly written extreme piece. Get a second ipinion before posting next time