Crossing The Line


Unions in Canada have reasonable and legitimate rights that are included in their protection of the members they represent. These members are, at the same time, employees of a business that also has reasonable and legitimate rights as an employer.

When these rights collide with each other potentially dangerous and harmful conflicts can appear.

A recent decision by Unifor to post an online video identifying replacement workers (who crossed a picket line in order to work for an employer during legitimate strike action) provides us with a strong example of this type of harmful conflict. In the video, Unifor identifies each of the replacement workers visually, and by name, and labels them ‘scabs’.

Click here to read about Unifor’s actions and to view the video embedded in the article.

The union is clear about its rights-based rationale for proceeding with this type of ‘naming and shaming’ approach. As noted in the article and in other media responses, however, the video has not been received well by the public or by other union members. The posting of this video raises concerns about the potential for bullying that each of the identified individuals now faces. To make matters worse, visible identifiers such as race and gender may make these people more easily identifiable in a small community. Each person may be subject to increased targeting and potential harassment as a result.

In cases like this, eventual resolutions may well deal with the workplace issues identified in the terms and conditions of employment of the workers represented by the union. It is doubtful, however, that such resolutions will provide a positive conclusion for those who have been outed or harmed along the way.


Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were a member of Unifor, what would your reaction be to the ‘naming and shaming’ video?
  2. Under what circumstances would you cross a picket line?
  3. Do you think the hiring of replacement workers during a strike should be banned in all provinces? Explain your rationale.