Unions in Court

Organized Labour and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Larry Savage and Charles W. Smith

  • Published: 2017. Paperback November 2017
  • Subject Listing: Law; History / Canadian History
  • Bibliographic information: 280 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

Since the turn of the twenty-first century, Canadian unions have scored a number of important Supreme Court victories, securing constitutional rights to picket, bargain collectively, and strike. Unions in Court documents the evolution of the Canadian labour movement's engagement with the Charter, demonstrating how and why labour's long-standing distrust of the legal system has given way to a controversial, Charter-based legal strategy. This book's in-depth examination of constitutional labour rights will have critical implications for labour movements as well as activists in other fields.
Charles W. Smith is associate professor of political studies at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan. Larry Savage is director of the Centre for Labour Studies at Brock University.

"A comprehensive and thorough analysis of the historical evolution of legal interpretations of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it relates to worker rights and unionization. This is a 'must-read' for anyone working in the field. Clearly articulated, this book challenges readers to think about the pros and cons of litigation combined with direct action."
-Larry Hubich, president, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour

"In the wake of the Supreme Court's recent positive rulings on the right to strike, this extremely timely book provides not only the most accurate and comprehensive historical account but also the most sober and sophisticated interpretation of the labour movement's fraught and contradictory relationship with the Constitution and the courts from the early 1980s right up to today."
-Leo Panitch, Emeritus Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science, York University, and coauthor of From Consent to Coercion: The Assault on Trade Union Freedoms

Introduction: Law, Workers, and Courts

1. Labour Rights in the Pre-Charter Era
2. Disorganized Labour and the Charter of Rights
3. Canadian Labour and the First Era of Charter Challenges
4. A Legal Response to Neoliberalism
5. The Possibilities and Limitations of Constitutional Labour Rights
6. A New Era of Constitutional Labour Rights

Conclusion: Which Way Forward?