House to house battle underway
The union battle in Whistler has moved to the streets and the house to house fighting has began.
The United Steelworkers of America are trying to talk to Blackcomb employees at staff housing and the municipality says that action is in contravention of the local non-solicitation bylaw. The Labour Relations Board has further muddied the battlefield by passing a ruling allowing the Steelworkers to knock on doors at Blackcomb staff housing between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Whistler Mayor Ted Nebbeling says the solicitation issue is a bit of a moot point because the Steelworkers are operating illegally in Whistler since they don't have a business licence, nor have they applied for one.
"When they (the Steelworkers) solicit for memberships there is a price that goes with the selling of their services, therefore they need a business licence," Nebbeling says. "The bottom line is the union organizers should not be allowed to do any business in Whistler in public places without a business licence."
The Steelworkers, in a brief press release, say they are going to abide by the Labour Relations Board ruling which allows them to continue knocking on doors at Blackcomb Staff Housing. The ruling allows the Steelworkers to campaign past the municipality's 6 p.m. cut off.
Steelworker organizers have not been available for comment over the past few days. The press release, signed by organizer Susan Carrigan, says the "campaign to gain Steelworker representation is continuing despite extreme community pressure on workers in Whistler not to unionize."
Meanwhile, a group of Whistler residents are getting together to try and give local unionized workers a chance to reconsider their union affiliations.
The group has gathered the information necessary for unionized workers to apply to the Labour Relations Board for decertification. A spokesperson for the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says employees at a number of unionized local hotels are not happy with the restrictions placed on them by union contracts and the monetary gains they were promised by union organizers have not been as lucrative as originally thought.
The spokesperson says once a union is certified employees have to wait 10 months before being able to apply for decertification — that time has passed for most of Whistler's unionized hotels.
Calvin Logue, Whistler's director of bylaw enforcement says a letter has been sent to the Steelworkers advising them of the fact that they are operating illegally and a business license is necessary.
Logue says if the Steelworkers continue to solicit members without a license he will apply to council to have their action stopped.
"These people (union organizers) are using the basic freedom of association argument," Logue says. "But, in order to protect the rights of individuals in Whistler there has to be reasonable legislative guidelines to make sure people aren't knocking on your door late at night."
Nebbeling says the business license and non-solicitation bylaws are applied to all businesses except non-profit groups.
"There is no way anyone can say this is union bashing, the bylaws apply to everyone in Whistler," he says.
Clive Lytle, information officer for the Labour Relations Board, says the LRB has made their ruling and they are out of the process.
"This is an issue between the municipality and the union representatives," Lytle says. "The matter may have to be addressed in the courts and things like this often go a fair way in court."
Nebbeling says if the Steelworkers want to go to court over the access issue, the municipality has lawyers ready to go to work.