chapter  4
44 Pages

Unions in Canada: Strategic Renewal, Strategic Conundrums

Three strands underlie the recent evolution of trade unionism in Canada. First, in an international economic and political environment, which has been extremely adverse for trade unions in general and for selected national trade union movements in particular, unions in Canada have fared relatively well over the last two decades. In contrast with many other labour movements, the 1980s were in fact a decade of relative expansion. Although the 1990s proved more difficult, Canadian unions have just about held their own, maintaining their membership but suffering a slight decline in union density. Second, it can be argued that this relatively good performance is the result of considerable innovation and a sustained effort to develop and pursue strategies likely to reinforce union presence. Third, in the current context, such strategic renewal is probably insufficient to ensure enhanced union strength. The union movement in Canada faces a number of strategic conundrums and it is not yet apparent which strategies are most likely to bear fruit.