Forced membership stopped

by Carroll McCormick

QUEBEC CITY, Que. – The threat that Quebec owner/operators will have to pay mandatory union membership fees is gone for the foreseeable future, thanks to a successful challenge mounted by a small band of Quebec owner/operators.

O/O Raymond Turbide and 10 other O/Os hired transportation attorney Francois Rouettet to argue that a December 2001 decision by the Quebec Transport Commission (CTQ), which declared that three unions were the legitimate representatives of all of Quebec’s O/Os, was fatally flawed.

That decision, had it stood unchallenged, would have paved the way for the unions – the Centrale des Syndicates democratique (CSD), the Association professionnelle des chauffers (FTQ) and the Syndicat national du transport routier (CSN) – to demand, under the provisions of Law 135, membership fees from all Quebec O/Os.

This saga, which goes back to the creation of Law 135 and Quebec’s Forum of Stakeholders in the General Trucking Industry a couple of years ago, was all about who would become the legitimate representatives of O/Os at the Forum.

Once that was figured out, the winners could try to activate a section of Law 135 that would turn all of Quebec’s O/Os into union cash cows.

And once the Association des proprietaires de camions remorques independants du Quebec (APCRIQ) dropped out of the race in early 2001, only the three unions were left to make sure that happened.

For sure, some O/Os would have welcomed mandatory membership and plentiful union promises that they would get better deals for them, but other O/Os, who valued their independence as businessmen, were alarmed.

“It is the first time that I have seen that the president of a company needed a union,” says Turbide. “I decided to contest the ruling because I believed the unions could do nothing good for me.”

Turbide and his colleagues stood alone in publically challenging the unions, and were fully prepared to raise the nearly $14,000 to mount a challenge to the December 2001 CTQ decision.

Thankfully though, once word got around, 19 other O/Os quietly kicked in money to spread out the cost of the challenge.

“It cost us less to contest this than one year of union dues,” says Turbide.

On June 18, Rouette, with the law firm Flynn, Rivard, successfully argued that the CTQ seriously erred in accepting, without demanding a shred of proof, the unions’ own figures on how many members each had; according to Rouette, Turbide and others, the unions have always refused to show their membership lists, which some informed sources believe are inflated.

They are even said to list some members who happen to be dead. Rouette argued that the membership lists were flawed and that the master list of O/Os in Quebec, key in determining who could represent the O/Os, is more or less a joke.

The CTQ commissioner who heard the challenge ruled in September that the 2001 decision was flawed and it would have to be set aside until it could be reviewed; no date has been set for that.

The unions are no longer the legitimate representatives of Quebec’s O/Os and, legal nuances aside, the decision is as good as dead, and any attempts to resuscitate the patient are probably doomed to fail.

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