Nowadays, Canadian unionisation of work force seems to be much more progressive compared to the US. According to recent statistical data, the unionisation of Canadian work force constitutes 37%, while the unionisation of American work force is only 16% (Jackson 2004), i.e. more than twice less than in the neighbouring country.
At first glance such a situation is quite paradoxical and practically inexplicable since both countries are similar in their level of development and represent the most advanced democratic states in the world. At the same time, the labour movement in the US still cannot catch up Canadian level of unionisation. Moreover, in recent year there is a strong trend in the US unionisation to refer to the experience of Canadian labour movement.
However, there are several logical reasons that can easily explain the paradoxical gap between the level of unionisation rates in the US and Canada. First of all, it is necessary to take into consideration the role of state in economic life and its attitude to work force and unions.
In this respect, Canadian work force has a great advantage compared to the US because union has a strong political support since they contributed to the formation of a political power that naturally protects their interests and balances relations between employers and employees on the national level.
In stark contrast, American unions turned to be too weak to organise themselves in a strong political party but simply attempted to protect their positions by integrating into the struggle between two main competitive parties in the US. Consequently, nowadays they are politically dependent on the policy of the political party they cannot really control. In such a situation they cannot play a defining political role as they could in Canada.
Furthermore, it is also necessary to pay attention to the economic development of both countries. It should be said that the US economy is characterised as extremely liberal where open market principles minimize the role of the state make social protection of employees subordinated to employers, while Canadian economy is based on principles of cooperation between employees and employers that, actually, absolutely correlates to the basic principles of open market economy.
Not surprisingly that in the liberal US economy employees turned to be more deprived by means of legislation, such as restrictions concerning strikes, or by means of sophisticated managerial techniques, while Canadian employees tend to be more organised and, using their political power, contribute to the implementation of the most progressive legislative acts concerning their rights and improvement of the position of work force at large.
Finally, it is possible to conclude that the fact that the level of unionisation rates in the US is insufficient is clearly realised by American labour movement and the fact that American unions prefer to follow the example of Canadian unions in their struggle for their rights and possibility to impact the policy of the state reveal the progressive and advantageous character of Canadian unionisation.
1. Jackson, A. Productivity and Competitiveness: Labour Perspective. Toronto: Routledge, 2004.
2. Gillespie, W.I., “The Redistribution of Income in Canada”, Canadian Tax Journal, vol.~1, 1980, 117-175.
3. Watkins, M., “The Political Economy of Growth”, in W. Clement and G. Williams (eds) The New Canadian Political Economy, McGill Queen’s, Kingston and Montreal, 1989 219-327.