The Rand Formula provides legislation that all members of trade unions must pay union dues regardless of the worker’s status.
The Rand Formula was established by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ivan Rand which was introduced in 1946 as a result of the Ford Strike of 1945 in Windsor, Canada. The Rand Formula is also referred to automatic check-off or compulsory check-off meaning that in provinces where the Rand Formula is not mandatory, an automatic check-off of union dues may become part of the collective bargaining agreement if the employer and the trade union agree.
Union dues to be deducted
This means that collective agreements include “a provision requiring the employer to deduct from the wages of each employee in the unit affected by the collective agreement, whether or not the employee is a member of the union” and that this amount will be forwarded to the union.
If an employee has objections to this due to “their religious conviction or beliefs, objects to joining a trade union or to paying regular union dues to a trade union”the employee and/or their Board can, directly or through a deduction from their wages, send the equivalent funds to a registered charity.
Purpose of the Rand Formula
The purpose of the Rand Formula is to establish the legality of automatically collecting dues from trade union members covered by collective agreements. This means that workers in a trade union cannot benefit from the activities and protections of their union if they choose not to pay mandatory union dues. Even when members choose not to participate in their union or are not a registered member of their collective bargaining workforce, the worker still must pay union dues.
Why do teachers pay union dues?
In Canada unions are formed when the majority of workers in a workplace vote to become unionized. Once a union is established, members gain the benefits and wages negotiated by their union through the collective bargaining process, their professional advocacy for working conditions, and with professional representation.
Unions have a legal duty to represent their members and be accountable on how these member dues are dispersed. Union dues are democratically set by the members of the union who, in turn, receive the benefits of belonging to this union. Union dues are used to fund the cost of collective bargaining, to fund the cost of enforcing the collective agreement, and to fund the cost of campaigns union members instruct their union to support. Union dues are also used to defend workers in a workplace grievance as investigations and/or arbitration can be very costly. Further, if a union strike or lockout were to occur, members receive strike pay.
Can workers dispute paying union dues?
Legal Challenge: Freedom of Association (Lavigne vs Ontario Public Service Employees Union)
In 1991, Francis Lavigne, an Ontario community college teacher, complained that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) was not using their union’s dues for purposes in which he agreed. Lavigne was not a member of OPSEU but was required to pay dues as per the Rand Formula and stated it violated his rights of freedom of expression in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 2b).
The Supreme Court ruled that there was no violation of Lavigne’s Charter rights (Lavigne, 1991) as the use of the union dues did have an expressive content but the payments of these union dues did not imply any support of union causes and did not prevent union members from expressing their own personal views. So there was no violation of the freedom of expression under the Charter and union dues were to be continued to be paid under the Rand Formula.
Connecting the Rand Formula to Teachers’ Real Lives
Teaching is a very public profession. Even when teachers are not teaching, they are held to high ethical standards. At or away from school, teachers’ choices and behaviour can impact their employment. Regardless of how professional teachers conduct themselves, they are always at risk of adverse complaints. When belonging to a union, teacher members receive the union support and resources they need to defend themselves in the case of an adverse allegation. Due to their professional and public vulnerability in their roles, teachers need this support in order to do their jobs. When political parties put pressure on governments to abstain from the Rand Formula, this puts teachers at great risk by impacting their collective bargaining rights and privileges.
Imagine being in fear of being fired when a student complains to a parent about an assessment or an adverse statement supposedly made in class. It’s happened to me many times and my administration and my union were there to back me up. My board respects the role of all their member unions, not just those belonging to the teachers’ unions (ETFO & OSSTF). It is in following the collective agreements that boards of education and their teachers can make student success a reality.
In solidarity and collaboration,
Dr. Deb Weston, PhD
Advance Cutting & Coring (2001): The Supreme Court upheld mandatory union membership in the Quebec construction industry. R. v. Advance Cutting & Coring Ltd., 2001 SCC 70, (2001) 3 S.C.R. 209
B.C. Health Services (2007): The Supreme Court recognized collective bargaining as a constitutional right under the freedom of association guarantees. Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia, (2007) 2 S.C.R. 391, 2007 SCC 27
Lavigne (1991): The Supreme Court upheld mandatory dues. Lavigne v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, (1991) 2 S.C.R. 211