Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.
I want to start by reminding Canadians that the middle class in Canada was built on the union movement. It was not until we had a strong union movement that we developed a strong middle class.
There have been a number of studies over the years by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Centre for Future Work and others that have shown that, starting in about the 1980s, union density, which is just a fancy word for what percentage of workers belong to a union, has gone down, from 38% in 1981 to just 29% in 2022. That is a Stats Canada number. That number, according to these studies, correlates with a decrease in the number of Canadians who belong to the Canadian middle class and with the decline in real wages for Canadian workers.
We see that belonging to a union has meant more powerful paycheques for Canadians, has meant more job stability in many cases and has meant a stronger Canadian economy overall. When we see fewer workers belonging to unions, we see more vulnerability for those workers, lower pay and consequences for the Canadian economy.
When workers are well paid for the work they do and they have spending power in the local economy, that helps feed local businesses, helps feed our economy and creates strong conditions for business. That is the lesson of Henry Ford, who is by no means a socialist, but even he realized that if we do not pay workers well enough to buy products in the economy, it is not long before the economy overall suffers, as well-paid workers are the cornerstone of prosperity.
How is it that the union movement has been able to win powerful paycheques for workers or to help them win them for themselves? There are many components to the labour movement. There are many ways they do advocacy, and there are many ways that workers within the union movement advocate for themselves and for fellow workers. However, all of that, at the rock bottom, is supported ultimately by the ability to strike.
That means the ability to say they are not satisfied with the terms and conditions of work, whether that is pay, benefits, pension, workplace procedures or workplace safety and health, and that they are not going to go into work on those terms and conditions. They want to stand with the people in their workplaces who feel similarly and demand better. Ultimately, all of us in a workplace, if we are of the same mind, should be able to withhold our labour.
The right to strike is the most important principle that subtends all of the power and influence the union movement has had in order to improve the position of Canadian workers. The most significant way this can be undermined is when employers are allowed to hire replacement workers during a strike. While some workers are out on the picket line saying they deserve better pay or want to address workplace safety and health issues, other workers come in the back door, perform their work and sometimes get paid, egregiously, on better terms than the workers who are out on strike were paid before the strike began.
New Democrats have been arguing alongside the labour movement for decades now and have presented, many times, legislation that would end the practice of employers being allowed to bring in replacement workers. The Liberals will say this was a campaign commitment of theirs. However, if we look at their platform, it is not true. It was a commitment they made to ban replacement workers when companies lock out their workers essentially to impose a strike.
It is only since the NDP used our power in this Parliament that the proposal became a comprehensive one that defends the right to strike instead of offering punishment to employers who would lock workers out. What we need in order to vouchsafe the power of Canadian workers' paycheques and the right to strike is a ban on replacement workers in the context of a strike as well. I am very proud to be part of an NDP caucus that has delivered that and made sure that this legislation does the whole job and properly respects and protects Canadian workers' right to strike.
It is the kind of legislation we needed for almost six years when IBEW Local 213 was out on the picket line against Ledcor trying to secure a first contract. Nobody ends up with a six-year labour dispute unless an employer is using replacement workers. The business wraps up a lot sooner than six years if it is not using replacement workers. What that means is the business is forced to bargain.
In this House, I have watched as Liberals and Conservatives voted together. As I have said, the real coalition in Ottawa is the Liberal-Conservative coalition. It voted to order workers back to work, to essentially take away their right to strike. We saw it with the Port of Montreal and we saw it with Canada Post workers.
Notable have been the examples where the federal government has refused to say that it will legislate workers back to work, because then we saw the company come to a deal. One of those instances was in 2019 with CN. CN was asking for back-to-work legislation. The government departed from its usual tack and refused to promise back-to-work legislation. Very soon after the federal government clearly refused the idea of bringing in back-to-work legislation, we saw a resolution to the strike. The company's strategy for bargaining could not use the federal government to get out of paying workers their fair share and to circumvent a real negotiation at the table.
It is likewise with replacement workers. If replacement workers are banned so that they cannot be part of the bargaining strategy of a company, we will see more speedy resolutions to labour disputes and ultimately, I believe, fewer labour disputes. In fact, there is some evidence for this from jurisdictions with anti-scab legislation. Those who say this is a travesty that would prolong labour disputes or that there would be more labour disputes are speaking against the evidence and, frankly, have an ignorance of how collective bargaining works and the ways companies mobilize replacement workers in order to get out of having to bargain fairly at the table.
We have heard a cornucopia of red herrings in this debate. We have heard Tories talk about replacement workers at battery plants that have not even been built yet. I share their concern about tax dollars being invested to create jobs for Canadians. Those are legitimate issues, but they do not have a place in a debate about anti-scab legislation.
The Tories are using a new term they are developing today for replacement workers to distract from the fact that they refuse to take a clear position on whether they support replacement workers coming in the back door while real, current Canadian workers are out on strike bargaining for better pay and a better future. That is a red herring. Canadian workers should not allow them to get away with being dishonest, quite frankly, about their position on anti-scab legislation by trying to distract with this other conversation, an important conversation but a different conversation nevertheless. This is our time to have a conversation about replacement workers in the case of a strike.
The Conservatives want to talk about the NDP wagging the Liberal dog. There is some truth to that on this point, for sure. As I said, the commitment the Liberals made is not what they are moving ahead with. We have a formula that would protect workers' right to strike. I am proud of that. They can go sing that from the mountaintops. We are also doing that. We want workers to know that we have their backs when they are out on strike, like the Ledcor workers, who needed legislation like this.
I would remind Canadians, too, of Bill C-377, from the Parliament when the Conservative leader sat at the cabinet table, and Bill C-525, bills that would have made it much easier to decertify a union in the workplace, not with the touted 50%-plus-one majority that is talked about when it is time to form a union, but with a 40% minority. That is how the Conservatives would have allowed unions to be decertified in a workplace. Not only that, but they would have required a bunch of sensitive financial information about individual union members to be published online, which would have put workers at a serious disadvantage in their strike position because it would have required unions to reveal the amount in their strike fund to employers so they could plan to bring in replacement workers and wait out the strike fund.
Give me a break when Conservatives say they are standing up for workers. We know that a strong union movement is integral to the powerful paycheques that Canadian middle-class workers have been able to bring home. We know that banning replacement workers is important to protect that. That is why New Democrats are proud we have this legislation before the House.