The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   S I G H T I N G S

Nova Scotia Courts Global Union-Buster

The French tire manufacturer Michelin, regarded by trade unionists around the world as one of the staunchest opponents of organized labor amongst global corporations, has been locked in a battle to keep its North American operations free of unionization. By locating its U.S. plants in states with anti-union "right to work" laws, Michelin has consistently confounded organizing efforts by U.S. unions. And legislation recently passed by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly may seal the fate of the multinational's most serious North American challenge to date: attempts by the United Rubber Workers of Canada to organize the company's employees in this Canadian province.

On December 28, the provincial legislature passed a fiercely contested amendment to Nova Scotia's Trade Union Act. The law mandates that when a company's Nova Scotia factories are deemed "interdependent," workers at one plant cannot be represented by a union unless workers at all the plants support unionization.

Union officials consider it a direct response to URW organizing efforts at Michelin's Granton plant. The amendment nullifies the results of a November certification election held there. The province's labor relations board refused to tabulate the results pending consideration of the bill, and will not tally the votes as a result of its passage.

After two unsuccessful certification drives, union leaders are confident that Granton's 1600 employees chose to affiliate themselves with the URW. Over 90 percent of the workers cast ballots, and an unprecedented turnover of employees reflects growing disenchantment with Michelin policies.

Passage of the legislation effectively denies Granton's workers the right to unionize: the URW does not believe it can muster the resources to organize Michelin's second plant in Nova Scotia, located in Bridgewater, deep in the province's traditionally antiunion southern region.

The implications of the bill, however, extend far beyond the election at Granton. Labor leaders and opposition political figures claim Michelin demanded such legislation as a precondition for further investment in the province. On December 3 one day after Labor Minister Kenneth Streatch introduced the amendment- Michelin unveiled plans for the construction of a third plant in Nova Scotia.

Opponents of the "Michelin bill" claim it sets a dangerous precedent for all of Canada. How far, they ask, should a provincial government go to attract investment by foreign multinationals"

- L. Wolf

Table of Contents