A provincial law governing union donations raises concerns, especially after a new study by the Parkland Institute revealed how much the law is costing unions and charities.
“Bill 32 is a landmark provincial government bill to change a wide range of laws affecting unions, union behavior and labor standards,” said the study’s author and director of Parkland. Institute, Jason Foster.
Bill 32 came into effect in August and requires union members to approve any charitable or political donations from their union.
“Members who have opted out pay less dues, so they pay a lower level of dues, which means there’s less income that goes back to the union to be used for these kinds of things, like support a local charity,” Foster said.
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“We estimate that before Bill 32, approximately $6.5 million would go to charities. From our study, unions are going to reduce that by 38%, so we estimate the impact is around $2.8 million,” Foster said.
The original focus of the bill was on political activism, but the study’s author said unions donate to many charities and that those donations have also been affected.
This is the case of the charity Change for Children, which has depended for years on donations from unions.
“What gets cut off when we don’t get adequate revenue are the programs we deliver, so it’s the people who are going to suffer, the beneficiaries of those programs,” explained chief executive Lorraine Swift.
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Local 1007 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has been donating to charities for years and said it does not like this new reality.
“It hurts,” said IBEW Local Business Manager Steve Southwood. “It’s a bit tragic and I hope [charities] can find funding from other programs, but we cannot do so at the moment.
In a statement to Global News, Department of Labor and Immigration Press Secretary Roy Dallmann wrote: “Union members now have the freedom to support the causes they believe in. No one should be forced to fund or subsidize political activism or otherwise with mandatory fees.
“Unions are always able to support charities through funding from workers who have chosen to contribute to those charities – or unions could also use other funds available to them as long as they are not collected for basic activities. With the Restoring Balance in Alberta Workplaces LawAlbertans are better informed and have more choices,” Dallmann continued.
“Union members have access to information about their union’s income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Dues payers can choose to pay the portion of union dues, dues or membership fees that goes to non-essential activities such as funding political activities, social causes, charities, organizations non-governmental organizations or organizations supporting a political party.
Despite the changes, Swift said she’s concerned about state charities when it comes to much-needed donations.
“Charities have seen a huge drop in revenue due to COVID, people are struggling, donations are the first thing people cut their budgets, but that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t need the services that charities provide,” Swift said.
“It makes it a lot thinner – places where we can go for support.
“The economy is not in good shape and charities are scrambling for our traditional ways of support.”
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