(Remember, in Canada, 5 out of 11 jurisdictions use mandatory secret ballot systems and 6 out of 11 use card majority systems for union certification)
Of those jurisdictions in Canada that use the mandatory secret ballot system for union certification, most require 50% plus 1 of “those voting” as the threshold for majority support. They normally set quorum at 50% plus 1 of “total eligible voters” who must vote in order for the vote to be accepted.
So, if 50% plus 1 voters of 50% plus 1 of total eligible voters cast a ballot in support of a union, the workplace can be certified with just marginally over 25% support of the total eligible voters (let’s say 26% for the sake of the argument).
Put another way, you have 100 employees. In order for a secret ballot vote to be legal, at least 51 of them must vote. And in order to have a majority of the 51 voters, 26 must vote in favour. So in the secret ballot system with “majority quorum” – 26 voters can make the decision for 100.
Under the card majority system – the lowest possible number of employees who must support a union out of a workplace of 100 is 51. (That’s 25 more than the above system). Some jurisdictions set a slightly higher threshold. In other words, an absolute majority of “all eligible employees” must be achieved through a card sign-up.
Now given this, why do unions prefer the card majority system to the other system?
Because, under the “so-called” secret ballot system, the fact is – it really isn’t a secret ballot.
You see, employees must usually come to a balloting location to cast their vote. Or send their ballot in through a system that identifies the voter, but not the vote. The employer inevitably (and by law) has a representative there to observe employees who come to vote, or send in ballots. (In fairness, the union has someone there too). BUT, if an employee does not come to vote – the employer knows, for absolute certain, that the particular employee DID NOT vote in favour of the union. If the employee does come to vote – the employer knows that the particular employee had a 50 - 50 chance of being a union supporter.
With any union drive, there will be those employees who are vocally opposed to unionization of the workplace. Management is well aware of who those people are, it is no secret. If you know who voted, and you know who will vote against a union, it doesn’t take much, through the process of elimination, to figure out who the supporters are. There are lots of cases where workers have been fired for being union supporters.
Furthermore, using our example of 100 employees – management is at a significant power and strategic advantage if only 26 people out of 51 voters voted to support – because the other 49 workers are too fearful to come out to vote and risk being thought of as a union sympathizer by the boss. Especially if the boss is openly hostile to unionization, and has been able to send that message through “expressing their opinion”.
And this says nothing of the whole issue of the anti-union tactics that 94% of employers already admit they are using when they find out that the employees are considering unionization. (12% of whom readily admit that what they are doing is illegal). See Sara Slinn's: Anti-union intimidation is real.
Let’s at least be honest about the reasons why the Sask. Party is proposing to change the certification process in Saskatchewan – it hasn’t got the slightest thing to do with “workplace democracy”.