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Opinion: Are unions really evil?


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January 16, 2020 by Rob Blackstien

Our article in May about carpentry unions cracking down on the underground cash economy was the most commented upon Canadian Contractor post last year, and clearly, the discussion is not done yet.

While many view unions as an agent of the Dark Lord, Kim Menard reminds us of all the good they have done, and that perhaps the real issue here is simply a lack of regulation.

Unions are touted as the greatest of all evils according to the emails I’ve seen responding to this article, but without unions workers rights would have never existed. Like it or hate it, unions have provided guarantee of fair wages for work performed, benefits, pensions, and a measure of security that is only truly guaranteed if you are ready, able and available to work. Nobody wants a slacker on a job site, and those who think they just won the union lottery will find themselves on the list, but bypassed on jobs where the worker’s reputation for poor performance precedes him/her.

Unregulated licensed carpenters is really my beef. The industry needs to be regulated and bring the standard of care and quality into play if you want to get rid of the cash economy. It’s discouraging for many quality carpenter/contractors who are charging a fair and reasonable price to be undercut by wannabe carpenters/handymen who couldn’t read the Building Code let alone build to it. It made Mike Holmes lots of money fixing messes by guys like that, however it’s a great illustration of a much needed change on this side of the industry.

So what do you think, Contractor Nation? Does the industry need tighter regulations?