Majority in Toronto think union gains are at risk today

| Filed under: Toronto, Social Issues

Unions seen to be as needed today as ever

TORONTO, AUGUST 21St, 2014 – In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Union Calling/Forum Research Poll™ for Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union among 1207 adult Toronto residents, the majority agree that union workplace advances like the weekend, paid holidays and maternity leave are at risk in today's political climate (57%), and a similar proportion agree that the Canadian labour movement is under assault by employers and government who want to reduce its influence (56%). Those who are most likely to agree with this assessment are the oldest (62%), the wealthiest ($80K to $100K - 67%, $100K to $250K - 62%), more so in the downtown and Etobicoke/York (60% each) than in Scarborough (53%) or North York (51%), drivers (61%),  those with no kids (60%), union members (79%), households with a union member present (61%), Olivia Chow and David Sokanacki supporters, and past Liberal (68%) and NDP (72%) voters provincially.

Two thirds agree with right to strike

Two thirds of Torontonians agree with the basic right to strike ("unionized workers have the right to withdraw their services when negotiations with their employer break down" - 62%), and this attitude is common to the oldest (67%), males (67%), the less wealthy ($20K to $40K - 71%), in the downtown (66%), those with some college or university (66%), union members especially (80%), Chow (81%) and Soknacki supporters (83%), provincial Liberals (74%) and NDP supporters (84%).

Three quarters credit social advances to unions

Three quarters of Toronto voters agree that society would never have achieved workplace breakthroughs like the weekend, paid holidays, the end of child labour and paid maternity leave without the unions (75%). This view is characteristic of the oldest (84%), the wealthy ($80K to $100K - 83%), union members (85%), Chow (92%) and Soknacki (83%) supporters, Liberals (87%) and NDP voters (84%).

8-in-10 agree no one should have to work for less than a living wage

The wide majority agree no one should have to work full time for a wage that doesn't meet the poverty line (79%), and this is characteristic of the youngest (86%), females (82%), the wealthier ($80K to $100K - 86%), the less educated (some college or less - 83%), union members (87%), Chow (94%) and Soknacki (84%) backers, Liberals (88%) and NDP (93%) voters.

6-in-10 agree unions are needed today as much as ever

Six-in-ten Torontonians agree unions are needed to protect the rights of workers and their families now as much as they have ever been needed (61%), and the profile of those who feel this way is similar to those who agree with the previous statement.

Majority believe Canadian labour movement "under assault."

Fifty-six percent of Torontonians agree that the Canadian labour movement is under assault by employers and governments who want to reduce unions' influence. While 79% of union members and 72% of Olivia Chow supporters agreed, even a slim majority of non-union respondents (51%) and John Tory supporters (52%) felt the same way. Perhaps surprisingly, 46% of Rob Ford supporters agreed with this statement. 

"The Toronto public, while not that heavily unionized at about one third of households, is aware of the historical contributions the labour movement has made to life in Canada, and they understand that some of these gains could be at risk if not defended with the same fervour that characterized the union movement in the past. It is interesting to note that the highest agreement for any of the statements we tested was for the idea that no one should sacrifice their dignity to work for less than a living wage, which, unfortunately, is becoming common these days. This was one of the ideas which actually drew high levels of agreement from the youngest and from females, who may be the future of the labour movement" said Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, president and founder of Forum Research. Dr. Bozinoff may be reached at (416) 960 9603 or at

“The common maxim that ‘Unions were once needed but no more’ is now a minority view, said Bill Reno, president and founder of Union Calling, Canada’s largest provider of automated telecom services exclusively to union and their allies.

“The fact that 75% of respondents attribute several quality of life social gains to unions is a clear signal, along with the other responses, that recognition of the value of organized labour is strong, even among those who do not belong to a union.” Mr. Reno can be reached at 416-223-7366 or at