Supreme Court Set to Rule Soon on Rights of Farm Workers

By Adams, Roy J. | CCPA Monitor, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Supreme Court Set to Rule Soon on Rights of Farm Workers


Adams, Roy J., CCPA Monitor


IMPORTANT LEGAL DECISION PENDING

In its ruling on the B.C. Health Services case, decided in 2007, the Supreme Court stated that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be presumed to provide at least as much protection of freedom of association rights as is found in the international human rights documents to which Canada has bound itself.

If that standard is fairly applied, the Supreme Court will reject the arguments of both appellant and respondent in the case of Fraser v. Ontario concerning the freedom of association rights of agricultural workers in Ontario. The solutions sought by both parties, in arguments before the Supreme Court last December, offend international standards and thus are not minimally acceptable under the Court's self-imposed standard.

The incidents giving rise to the case trace to events that occurred in the 1990s. A few years after an NDP government instituted statutory bargaining rights for agricultural workers, the Conservative government of Mike Harris removed those workers from coverage. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the main union attempting to organize Ontario farm workers, went to court and in 2001 won a groundbreaking decision (Dunmore v. Ontario). The Supreme Court found that the action of the Conservative Ontario government made it nearly impossible for agricultural workers to organize.

In response, the Harris government introduced the Agricultural Employees' Protection Act (AEPA). That act minimally secured farm workers' right to organize, but gave them no explicit right to bargain and no protected right to strike. The AEPA was upheld by a lower court, but, subsequent to the Supreme Court's Health Services decision constitutionalizing a "procedural right to collective bargaining," the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned it.

The appellant court ordered the Ontario government to institute legislation for farm workers containing the key elements of the Wagner Act model - the legislative scheme in effect for most private sector workers, including agricultural workers, across the country. The key elements specified by Chief Justice Winkler were bargaining in good faith, majoritarian exclusivity, and a dispute resolution mechanism for settling bargaining impasses and contract grievances. The court indicated that it would be satisfied if the province substituted binding arbitration for the right to strike.

The Ontario government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The respondent was the UFCW. There were a lot of interveners, including the federal government and several provincial governments.

Ontario argued that the Court of Appeal erred in holding that the legislature is obliged to provide farm workers with "a particular labour relations model," thus "transforming a legislative labour policy choice into a constitutional imperative." Instead, the SCC should allow the AERA to stand, the province argued, because "nothing in the AEPA impairs collective bargaining between employee associations (which can include trade unions) and farm employers." The province also claimed that the UFCW had failed to establish a positive rights claim because it provided evidence of only two cases in which agricultural employees had tried unsuccessfully to organize.

The UFCW, on the other hand, argued that the AEPA, instead of being benignly permissive, "orchestrates, encourages, and sustains" violations of Charter-protected rights. The Supreme Court, the UFCW claimed, should fully affirm Chief Justice Winkler's decision, because "the only group of Ontario farm workers that has ever successfully unionized and engaged an employer in collective bargaining did so under [Wagner Act model] bargaining legislation that was in place for 17 months in 1994-1995."

The attributes of the Wagner Act model identified by Chief Justice Winkler are the minimum needed in the Canadian context, counsel for the UFCW argued, to make freedom of association accessible for farm workers.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Supreme Court Set to Rule Soon on Rights of Farm Workers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.