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Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of auto parts maker Linamar Corp. (Reuters)

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of auto parts maker Linamar Corp.

(Reuters)

LINDA HASENFRATZ

Let’s embrace Michigan’s ‘right to work’ law Add to ...

I was thrilled to read of the passing of “right to work” legislation in Michigan.

Why am I happy? Not because I want to see union power reduced or because I want to see companies given the ability to enforce unfair restrictions on their employees. Quite the opposite.

I support this action because I believe in the basic human rights that I trust Canada and the United States have long stood fast and true for.

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It’s my belief that a basic right we have as free citizens is to not be forced to do something we don’t want to do. That is the basic definition of oppression, something our country has long fought against, something many of our citizens fled their homelands to seek refuge from on our shores.

If someone wants to join a union, they should do so. If another doesn’t want to join, there should be no law that forces them to. Under today’s laws, if more than half of an employee group wants to join a union, the 49 per cent who may have voted No are forced to do so as well – forced to pay union dues and accept collective agreements they may not be in agreement with, forced to strike when they may not agree with the idea of striking.

We have all heard the stories of union groups voting in vast majority to accept wage and benefit packages offered by companies, only to have their vote overturned by union leaders anxious not to set a precedent of concessions. That’s wrong. It’s wrong for those employees to lose their jobs to support a political agenda not their own. It’s wrong to force someone to do something they don’t want to do.

As free citizens, we should all have the right to decide for ourselves what we will or will not accept in our employment agreements. Today’s labour, employment and health and safety laws protect our workers. Companies are legislated to ensure fair pay, safe and healthy working environments and reasonable hours and conditions of work. Companies simply don’t have the ability to impose unfair practices on their employees, nor would they want to.

Everyone knows the only way to survive in an increasingly competitive world is through careful treatment, care and development of our most precious asset: our employees. They are of equal value and importance to any company as its customers and shareholders. One can’t survive without the other two. Decisions always need to be balanced to the good of employees, customers and shareholders. Smart companies, companies that survive, work that way.

I applaud the politicians of Michigan for their wisdom, their foresight and their common sense in passing this law. If this bastion of unionism can see the way of the future, surely it’s a sign we should consider following suit.

I challenge our leadership in Ontario and in Canada to embrace this change. Be part of it, join this wave of change. Don’t be left on the sidelines of a competitive dance that will go on without us. Do it for all of us, as citizens of this great country; do it because it’s our basic human right to have a say and to have the right to make our own choices.

Linda Hasenfratz is the CEO of auto parts maker Linamar Corp. of Guelph, Ont.

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