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ICBA HISTORY: Remembering the Fights We’ve Won and Pondering the Fights to Come

More than 40 years ago, a group of brave contractor and construction company owners formed ICBA. Leonard Remple was one of them, and today he sent us a note encouraging us to continue our fight for free enterprise in B.C. Here is Len’s letter:

In the early 1970s, B.C. was governed by the NDP and they revised the labour code of B.C. to favour the union movement. This imbalance between employers’ rights and unions’ rights created extreme hardships for private enterprise. An employer had no way of communicating with employees once the employees had been contacted by a union.  If an employer did start a dialogue with employees, a charge of unfair labour practice was the usual consequence. The ramifications of this were serious and expensive to defend. If the employer decided to fight the charge, it would be debated at the Labour Relations Board, but the verdict was predictable because the LRB members were carefully selected for their role by the NDP government.

The labour code of B.C. was not a level playing field, resulting in untold frustration by employers who had almost no legal defence. This, of course, created a boldness by unions. This boldness became interpreted by unions as licence to make demands and if need be, use intimidation. Since intimidation did not always work, the next step was violence. Since these business owners had all their financial net worth invested in the business, it was also an emotional threat when violence erupted.

Whenever confrontations developed, the law enforcement agencies refused to intervene, excusing their non-involvement with the excuse: “We do not get involved in a labour dispute.”

These were the conditions throughout industry in B.C. It meant the entrepreneurs who had staked their life savings in an enterprise were at great risk of losing it all.

Some businesses surrendered to union pressure, but others decided to band together and lobby the government (non-stop) to alter the labour code to a balanced playing field. This banding together to fight for our rights was not for weak-kneed or spineless people. This was a war for the survival of our rights in a democratic country. No one should have the freedom to impede free enterprise. It developed from a firm stand into a CAUSE. That was the birth of ICBA, conceived by a small group of business persons who refused to give up without a struggle. And that was truly what followed: a struggle for survival.

It took a strong determination to withstand the struggle. It took more than determination, it required a strong will, strong emotional stamina and a risk of financial loss. That struggle was akin to a biblical principle (although ICBA was not religiously motivated) which reads, “without a VISION, the people perish”.

A “vision” can be defined as a clear goal, a solid passion, an unbeatable spirit, and an unwavering loyalty to the cause. There was an unstated attitude that prevailed with this small group of ICBA founders: “ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR ALL”.

My admonition, through this letter, is that members do not take the present armistice for granted and become complacent with an attitude of, “those times are past and will never be repeated.”

The open shop concept is a treasure to be protected, fostered, encouraged, expanded and guarded vigilantly. Remember always: those who oppose the open shop concept will never genuinely accept it as a permanent part of our economy. The open shop concept is a constant gift to labour and therefore is a threat to unionization. ICBA must remain on guard and avoid the danger of complacency.

Reflect on a loss of freedom for the federal worker that took place in Canada’s parliament in the week ending June 18, 2017. The Liberal government canceled the secret ballot for voting for or against unionizing. Now all that is required is a card being signed by an employee. Imagine federal elections being handled that way. I can supply stories of how these signatures are frequently obtained. Most of us would find that method too coercive.

I recognize it is difficult to infuse a second-generation passion for a cause that we are now enjoying, but that is exactly my hope for ICBA members.

Be vigilant, NOT COMPLACENT.  What has been gained can be lost at the whim of politicians. Open shop is like the statue of liberty, it is for all persons a benefit.

Leonard Remple


Robert in Vancouver

Eliminating secret ballet voting for gov’t union employees is another example of how little Trudeau and the federal Liberals care about the ‘middle class’. It’s a disgrace, but there’s no mention of it in the media.

Claude Nobauer

A secret ballot, whether in a voting booth for any level of government or for deciding your future in a union, is the basis of a free and democratic society. It is a disgrace that any government should be able to take that away with legislation. It is as fundamental as free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association and should be part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Leonard Remple is right we need to Be Vigilant and we cannot become complacent, the “hoards at the gates” want to change the laws to favour their friends and we have to fight for the rights of all workers and employers.

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