Alberta charities lose millions in union donations over Bill 32: study

A provincial law governing union donations raises some concern, especially after a new Parkland Institute study outlines how much the law costs unions and charities.

“Bill 32 is a landmark piece of provincial government legislation aimed at changing a wide variety of laws related to unionization, union behavior and labor standards,” said study author and director of the Parkland Institute, Jason Foster.

Bill 32 went into effect in August and requires union members to approve any charitable or political donation from their union.

“The members who chose not to sign up pay less dues, so they pay a lower level of membership, which means less revenue coming into the union to be used for things like this, like supporting a local community. charity,” said Foster.

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“We estimate it’s about $6.5 million before Bill 32 would go to charity. From what it looks like from our research, unions are going to cut that by 38 percent, so we think the impact is about $2.8 million,” Foster said.

The bill’s original focus was on political activism, but the study’s author said unions have donated to many charities and those donations have also been affected.

Such is the case for the Change for Children charity, which has been dependent on union donations for years.

“What gets cut when we don’t get enough revenue is the programs we deliver, so those are the people who will suffer, the recipients of those programs,” explains Executive Director Lorraine Swift.

Click to play video: 'Alberta Government Bill 32 Proposes Major Changes In Trade Union Strike Rules And Funding'

Alberta Government Bill 32 Proposes Major Changes to Strike Rules and Union Funding

Alberta Government Bill 32 proposes major changes to strike rules and union funding – July 7, 2020

The International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers Local Union 1007 has been donating to charities for years and says it doesn’t like this new reality.

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“It hurts,” said IBEW Local union manager Steve Southwood. “It’s a bit tragic and hopefully [charities] can find funding from other programs, but we can’t just do it right now.”

In a statement to Global News, Roy Dallmann, press secretary for the Department of Labor and Immigration, wrote: “Union members now have the freedom to support the causes they believe in. No one should be forced to fund or subsidize political activism or otherwise with mandatory fees.

“Unions can still support charities with funding from employees who have chosen to contribute to these charities — or unions can also use other funds available to them, as long as dues aren’t collected for core activities. With the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act, Albertans are better informed and have more choice,” Dallmann continues.

“The union members have access to information about their union’s income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Dues payers can choose whether to pay the portion of union dues, assessments, or initiation fees that go to non-core activities, such as funding political activities, social causes, charities, non-governmental organizations, or organizations that support a political party.”

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Despite the changes, Swift said she is concerned about the state’s charities when it comes to much-needed donations.

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“Charities have seen their revenues plummet because of COVID, people are struggling, donations are the first thing people are cutting their budgets for, but that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t need the service charities provide,” Swift said.

“It makes it a lot thinner – the places we can go for support.

“The economy is not doing well and charities are scrambling for our traditional ways of supporting.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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