Canadian Contractor

Alec Caldwell   

Did IBEW certification cause the closure of Lorne’s Electric, Arnprior, Ont.?

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When Lorne's Electric went out of business, around 40 people became unemployed. The company had recently become unionized based on the votes of three of Lorne Electric's employees.

The story of the closure of Lorne’s Electric, Arnprior, ON, was first published in an Ottawa Sun piece by Ron Corbett, here.

Here is our columnist Alec Caldwell’s take on it.  Alec is the president of CARAHS, the Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services.

Did IBEW certification cause the closure of Lorne’s Electric, a 40-person shop concentrating on the residential side of our the electrical business?

On Dec. 30 last year, Local 586 of IBEW sent notice it was seeking card-based, union certification of Lorne’s Electric. The notice was sent by way of a 70-page fax that arrived on a day when only three people were working for the company. These three employees became, in effect, the entire workforce the union based their numbers on. It seems a vote by secret ballot for certification in Ontario only requires a vote 50%+1.

Six weeks later the owner of Lorne’s electric, Eric Glahs, sat at a meeting in the Ontario Labour Relations Board head-offices in Toronto, listening in amazement as a judge holding the cards in his hands, read the names of two of the men on that three-man crew. By a majority Lorne’s Electric was unionized that day. The other 30 or so persons not working on that day did not count; they were not included in to the vote.

Lorne’s Electric went out of business after 20 years in business, with around 40 people being unemployed. I believe it’s terrible that all these workers and families suffered financial hardship, caused in my opinion by bullying unions. Had this union left this company alone, I’m sure it would still be in business, offering competitive wages, benefits and a pension plan to its 40 so employees.

This situation of card-based certification legislation was brought in by Dalton McGuinty and many non union businesses have no idea of this threat to their livelihood. The present Ontario Liberal government continues its union ties, with for example the carpenters union, both supporting journeymen/women for carpentry in home renovations and the Liberals for introducing of the union based Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

Do you think card based certification fair or not?
Let me know.

By providing education and training, CARAHS reduces your risk of fines, job site closures and prosecution under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. CARAHS is independent, non governmental and an non union organization

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29 Comments » for Did IBEW certification cause the closure of Lorne’s Electric, Arnprior, Ont.?
  1. Lou Abruzzese says:

    I’m no defender of unions although my Mom was able to raise four children as a meat-wrapper and single parent. If the unions are out to monopolize an industry, of course that is unethical and should be an illegal restraint of trade. But unions can only represent the demands of their members. Residential trade work pricing is always beaten down. Piece work and hiring cheap labor to rough-in houses would have to disappear. The workers will understand what is needed to keep the company afloat and when all the residential trades are unionized, everyone will earn a decent living.

  2. Willy s says:

    This is how people become “postal”

  3. Leon says:

    I’m sure the OLRB allows card based de-certification to work the same way 😉

  4. Rudy Dyck says:

    I’ve NEVER understood how in a “democratic” society such as Canada, where we are suppose to celebrate our “all inclusive” Charter of Rights, we are forced to being bullied into something we chose NOT to participate in. Lorne’s Electric, chose 29 years ago to begin a business without any Union affiliation and was allowed to. Yet when 2 out of 40 employees (5%) wish to become affiliated with a union organization, it immediately causes an entire ligitamite corporation to lose their free rights & choice & forced to become a union organization??? This to me is smacks of 100% dictatorship & should NEVER be allowed in Canada. If the 2 employees wanted to become part of a union organization, they should enjoy the right to quit Lorne Electric & go to the local IBEW Union Hall and sign up. For the IBEW to be allowed to force their propaganda against anyone’s rights & freedom, only indicates that we in Canada are still being bullied by gang like individuals.
    It’s a real shame to hear that we still experience such barbaric tactics in the 21st century. This is very disgraceful!
    I’m not against anyone belonging to a union organization, as long as each individual or organization did so under their own free choice, not by being bullied into it.

    • Barry says:

      Well written. I also believe in unions but for the few to outweigh the many is just WRONG.

    • William says:

      I am not sure how it works in Canada, but here in the States, All workers are allowed to vote. And yes, the employees dictate whether the want to elect a bargaining representative or not.
      If collective bargaining is their choice the union will represent them to get them the best wage and benefits possible.
      When it comes to the construction industry, employers are simply financiers and salesmen. The products and services are usually dependent on labor. With out labor, employers would simply be retailers of materials.
      There is a reason insurance is high for a construction company. It is dangerous work. people lose life and limb regularly to the industry. You won’t find may employers that would put themselves in the workers position.
      Without workers, employers are nothing. Without workers the economy collapses. the more workers earn, the more they spend, creating demand and creating jobs. Its not business or employers that create jobs, I would contend that business and employers often will do all they can to not hire until there is so much demand that supply cannot keep up, without producing more.
      Doesn’t seem right that only two people voted, or that everyone was not notified of the vote. It seems more logical that 37 people chose to abstain. I could be wrong, I do not know Canadian law.
      Maybe I can check in with my brothers at Local 586 and get the other side of the story . . .

  5. Michael Gray says:

    it is totally unfair, 3 people discide the fate of 40, does that sound fair, NOT ! The labour board is totally all about labour, not the employer. I hope the 2 employees who vote for the union got the union positions they were promised. I believe if you want to be a union person join the union, but to turn a company, says alot about how low a person can be. I will bet these 2 guys will be back working non union in about 6 months, because of lack of work. The owner most likley shut the doors because his customer base is non union, and he was smart enough to realize he was not going to lose thousands trying to compete against his non union competitors.

  6. Terry McLeod says:

    Unions were necessary in order to ensure a fair days pay for a fair days work. Having been a union member and run a union company for over thirty years I was always willing to compete with the non union sector. We could provide better trained employees and do the work faster and better. This means we were cost effective. There has been a shift in the union movement and it is no longer about protecting workers. The unions are now about power and money. They have become the very thing they were created to protect workers from.

  7. Bob says:

    Sorry to hear that Eric. You are so right as I went thru the same process. The Labour Board is very much union supported and the legislation needs to change.
    There is no easy way to deal with your company loss, but please accept my apologies for our BAD GOVERNMENT, even though I did not vote for them.

  8. Gregg Bowman says:

    very interesting comment about OCOT being union based. thought this was the case when the only thing they have done for the industry as a whole since their inception is hire “enforcement officers” and make a mandatory “membership”. at least send the members a news letter to let us know how many infractions your enforcement officers enforced or how well the 3 to 1 ratio is working for you! lol

  9. Terry says:

    I would think the other 37 might form a lynch mob, I dont think I would want to be one of the 3 !

  10. Concerned carpenter says:

    I have no words that could come close to expressing my disgust regarding this poor company being forced to join… Just to be clear, if any of my employees tried to pull that crap, I’d close my doors too… Unions do nothing for the worker any longer, they are in it for the dues

  11. Questo says:

    Great comments above, thanks guys for expressing the none fair issue about the Loren’s electric situation, also the last Ontario elections are in the same matter, a few decide for all the others.

    Loren’s electric owner could close his company and open a few days later with another name, in the process lay off everyone, could got rid off those want the union on his business and call all others worked for his previous company before.

    Or create two or more companies names, divide the workers among them, close the one those two union pros were, and they will be on the road looking for another way of live style.

    Looks like he didn’t have good advise on his business.

  12. Paul says:

    i agree the unions methods to get a vote were unfair, no doubt. But how does a business go under SIMPLY because the union comes in? If that’s true, then I have to think the company was on bad financial footing before the vote.

    I feel like the entire story is not being told. Want me to back your position? Tell me the WHOLE story.

  13. Kevin McGuire says:

    It sounds like the author of this article is very opinionated. The letter was “faxed and read and voted on by 1.2 percent of the company. Really???? And where were the other 98.8 percent of the company when all this went down? In the United States it’s not uncommon for a shop to be split. Half Union and half not. I believe the author of the article should present some actual facts and dates to back is story up! Sounds like a piece of fiction to me!

  14. Daniel says:

    I can’t believe how hard it would be to get rid ot the union. It should be just as easy for the workers to vote out the union as easy as they vote themselves in. They should not allowed to cast any vote without at least 75% of the company’s payroll workforce voting. Not doing it on weekends when skeleton crews work but weekdays.

    • Steve Payne says:

      Steve, you are absolutely correct to notice that the headline and first sentence of Alec Caldwell’s piece, “Did a union put Lorne’s electric out of business?” is identical to the first sentence of the Ottawa Sun piece by Ron Corbett, Nov. 2, that first published the story of Lorne’s Electric’s unionization and subsequent closure. Parts of three other sentences in Alec’s piece have similar wording to the Ottawa Sun story, “40 person shop, concentrating on residential construction…” “seeking card based union certification…” and “arrived when no one was in the office…” Alec Caldwell didn’t break the story, the Ottawa Sun did, and Canadian Contractor apologizes to our readers and the Ottawa Sun for appropriating those sentence fragments into our piece. I am going to put the link to the Ottawa Sun story at the front of our piece, and edit out what is clearly Alec’s inadvertent repeating of Mr. Corbett’s text. Thanks for your close reading of these very important stories.

  15. Scott says:

    Questo that is not true once the owner closes he must close for a year and a day and not hire any employees he had. They would all be considered union as well. He would have to start all over buying new equipment trucks and anything that belonged to the now unionized Lorne’s electric is their property. It is a DISGRACE that a union can come in and STEAL a business because of competition. Our country is built on competition and rights. If you want to work for a union quit and go work for it. This happened in where I live as well and it disgusts me that electrical union people are infiltrated into a non union shop to make that business a union shop. It is about power and greed. Why do you think the CAW formed a new coalition with the pulp and paper company to form Unifor? The CAW was loosing workforce as well as the pulp and paper union so they formed one to make them look bigger ad have more clout. IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHERE YOU ARE OWRKING QUIT AND FIND SOMETHING ELSE. Leave the owners business alone it is his NOT yours.

  16. Adam says:

    Completely unfair! How can 2 people’s vote totally change the lives of 30 + people. Maybe those 2 are so great they felt intitled to the promised pot of gold, or just obtuse of their actions by not reading the contract. If they understood how the contract would really affect their co-workers, employer and company they use to work for, it might have affected their decision. Remember boys promises are almost always broken.

  17. Friend of Eric says:

    Ok here is the “Rumours”…heard em before…too many times for my own mind not to be made up, but I’m sure others will disagree.
    Of the 2 that signed the card…One was bribed by the IBEW. Yes half the staff quit (likely the most efficient half) rather than join IBEW. Eric was promised stabilization funds so he could finish the sub division rather than walk away from contract. Not receiving this money is the main reason why Lorne’s Electric went bankrupt. Eric Glahs of Lorne’s Electric is no stranger to a forty man shop, or being in business. What a shame! He paid good wages and good benefits and had a pension plan too. But the over $18/hr benefit plan that is in reality only worth half but is really a way to use taxpayers money to further union interests is what bankrupt him.

  18. Great words Terry when you said “the unions are now about power and money. They have become the very thing they were created to protect workers from”

    Also your bang on Questo. I wonder where he got advice on this, if any.

    Thanks everyone else here who responded. Thanks for your support.

    Finally I posted this on blog sites and received over 70 plus responses. Following is a small selection of what people said, some were good, some bad and some pure ugly:


    ” @Alec where are your sources for this? Why did this company go out of business – provided to really did? All due respect I’m not buying your story until there is proof”

    “Had the vote gone the other way and the nonunion faction won by two votes, would the pro – union employees be afforded the same argument as is being issued in this case”

    “Non-union companies(small business mostly) don’t have schooling programs and rely on self schooling, vendors workshops etc to get the traiing out there, There are many as well that work for the weekend beer money”

    “owner probably decided to close shop and start a new non union business where he can continue to rape employees”


    “Screw the unions. The only thing you’ll get from a union is a monthly deduction from your paycheck to pay your dues. Hopefully Lorne Electric reformed as another (non union) company without those 3 employees”

  19. Joe Greps says:

    “James Barry, business manager for IBEW 586, says the union followed all the rules when certifying the company.

    “Card-based certification is there for a good reason,” he says.

    “It’s there to protect our members, and yes, we file when we feel we have the opportunity for certification. “”

    James Barry is also a leading advocate of the OCOT and sits on it’s board of governors.

    Explains a lot doesn’t it….

  20. Questo says:

    Ontario is getting bad by the day, with all these side agencies under all source of bs. Looks more like communism then democracy, imposing, enforcing, in the none democratic way.

    Today Dec/8/2014 on the news was announced another scam about the smart hydro meters, another two billions dollars waste.

    Also the towing demonstration at Queens park, let’s one wonder how far these crooks will be allowed to damage the Province economically?

    I can’t wait to see all of them removed, together with all the agencies they have created.

  21. Billy says:

    This is what happens when you pay your electricians 10$/hr less and use their own money for their pension plans etc. I guess lowering market values and undermining other contractors didn’t work out so well. At least the workers that are now in the union will be able to retire with a pension and benefits, too bad they wasted all that time and money getting fooled!

    • Avatar photo Steve Payne says:

      Billy, please post your evidence that Lorne’s Electric paid its workers in the single digits per hour. And the evidence for the theft of the pension money.

      • Billy says:

        Would a pay stub suffise? Why single digits? The average electrician in ottawa gets paid 37$/hour, lorne’s paid 27$, when you’re in the union you get 37$ plus pension plus benefits which do not come out of your pay, lorne’s short changed his workers for years and when he saw he wouldn’t make as much money he pulled out, this man isn’t an electrician he just bought the company as a business, save your pity for the underpaid workers please!!

        • Avatar photo Steve Payne says:

          Billy, I do apologize to you. Not reading carefully, I thought you had said some of Lorne Electric’s guys were making only $10 an hour, not $10 an hour less. Stupid error on my part. OK, that’s interesting on what you say the wage disparity was at Lorne’s Electric, but I think the main point of the article was on the process whereby about 3 employees could unionize that shop, when it employed many times that many guys, because of the process. Not that, yes, they were already making as much money as the unions. I guess at the end of the day, I would ask, should all private businesses be forced to unionize by such processes, should all private businesses unionize period, and where are the rights of the independent entrepreneur to operate as non-union shops. I have a lot of pity, since you mention it, for the folks that lost their jobs at Lorne’s because of the process. Would they have voted to unionize, if they all were asked? Thanks for your comments.

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