Anti-union intimidation is real, says Osgoode professor

Unions strongly agree with the view that it is important for employees to be able to decide, free from coercion, whether or not to be represented by a union, wrote Sara Slinn, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the National Post Dec. 7, responding to an article published by the Fraser Institute Nov. 29. The disagreement arises over how this is to be done: through card-signing or mandatory votes.

Canadian labour legislation includes two certification procedures intended to measure employee support for unionization: card-based and mandatory vote procedures…. Both procedures have strengths. Both also have weaknesses. The question of whether the card-based or mandatory vote procedure is "better" is really a question of which more accurately reflects employees’ true wishes about union representation.

Academic research, including one of the studies referred to by the commentators, suggests…that the explanation [why mandatory vote procedures significantly reduce the probability of certification] lies in the advantage votes give to employer anti-union efforts. Unionization is less likely under mandatory votes because employers are encouraged to resist unionization and research shows that these union-avoidance efforts (legal and illegal) are more effective under the vote than card system.

In sum, the choice of certification procedure is complicated and often subject to heated ideological argument, rather than rational debate. The real debate should be about how to design a better procedure to achieve our common goal: allowing employees to freely choose whether to have union representation.

Lee Lorch is Canada’s first member of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences

Pastor Valle-Garay, senior scholar in York’s Dept of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, reported on the ceremony held in the Chancellors Room in The Underground, where Professor Emeritus Lee Lorch, of York’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics, was made a corresponding member of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences, the first Canadian so honoured. Valle-Garay’s story was published in Cañ, a Toronto journal of art and Latin American literature Dec. 7.

FES professor was a life-long learner

Reginald Lang, professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, was born [Dec. 17, 1936] on a dusty farm in Saskatchewan in the middle of the Depression, the eldest of four children, wrote his daughter Michele in an obituary in The Globe and Mail Dec. 7. His sister Marlene still remembers how eager he was, as the firstborn, to teach her and their younger brother, Dennis, the games and lessons he had already learned.

In the late sixties, Reg secured a Nuffield Fellowship and we went to live in London, England, for a few months. Soon after returning to Halifax, NS, Reg was offered a job at the new environmental studies department of York University. For the next 30 years he worked there, teaching and advising graduate students. Each course was subject to constant revision and improvement, for Reg was as critical of himself as he was of his students.

Although he sometimes complained about the "curse" of having too many interests, Reg took great pleasure in being a lifelong learner. After retiring, he was most enthusiastic about his burgeoning work as a life coach and his book on personality types and strategic planning, which he worked on until his death [on Sept. 20, in Toronto, of cancer, aged 70.]

Azrieli Foundation launches survivor memoir series

Battling an icy winter rain, hundreds of people packed the Bloor Cinema Nov. 21 to celebrate the publication of the first series of Holocaust memoirs written by Canadian survivors and published with financial help from the Azrieli Foundation’s Memoir Project, wrote the Canadian Jewish News Dec. 6.

Bringing the testimonies of survivors to a wider audience is the brainchild of Montreal developer David Azrieli, who decided to write his own memoirs after returning to Canada following a visit to his birthplace, Poland, as well as countries he escaped to in order to survive the war.

The first series, published in partnership with the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, consists of six autobiographies. The original manuscripts will be preserved at York.

Taking issue with Hitchens on Hanukkah

Christopher Hitchens evinces no awareness of the ways in which religious traditions imbue past events and rituals with new meanings, wrote humanities Professor Eric Lawee, coordinator of Jewish Studies in York’s Faculty of Arts, in the National Post Dec. 6. (Lawee was responding to the writer’s Dec. 5 Post article, “ Bah, Hanukkah”.) To explain the origin of a religious practice is often to say little about its evolving spiritual significance(s) over time, wrote Lawee.

He also has a tendency to reduce all things religious to their worst, then denounce them as backwards or evil. But surely one could do the same with the secular life he romanticizes. Ironically, he denounces much of religious life as "childish" when his analysis of religion is in many ways the same. There is, or at least can be, much more to the religious life, Mr. Hitchens, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

On air

  • Heather Lotherington, a English professor in York’s Faculty of Education, spoke about changes to the language brought about by the Internet, on G4Tech-TV Dec. 6.
  • Gordon Flett, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about his studies of perfectionists, on National Public Radio in the US Dec. 7.