Protesters standing together outside in a city. They are raising their arms and their hands are balled into fists.


The ever-changing landscape of the modern workplace is riddled with precarity. The gig economy, rapidly evolving technologies and the demand for increasingly advanced job qualifications can make job stability feel like a fairy tale for the modern worker.  

In such an unpredictable professional environment, the role of labour unions becomes invaluable. When workers unionize, they acquire a collective voice which allows them to advocate more effectively for their rights and interests in the workplace. 

As a 2021 report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows, unionization is associated with numerous benefits for both individuals and communities in a wide range of industries. 

Yet, the percentage of Canadian workers who are unionized has decreased sharply in the past few decades. In Ontario, the percentage of unionized workers fell from 34 per cent in 1981 to 25 per cent in 2022. 

Anti-union sentiments present a barrier to labour organization efforts. Although many Canadians recognize the benefits of labour unions, many others still hold negative opinions. Often, these opinions are rooted in misinformation. Employers may deploy anti-union rhetoric as part of deliberate union-busting efforts, however, harmful misconceptions about unions persist even among the working class.  

The best way to counteract anti-union rhetoric is to recognize the common myths and arm yourself with the facts.  

Myth: “Unions are bad for the economy.” 

Fact: There is no evidence that unionization has a negative impact on the economy.  

In fact, unions have the potential to positively impact the economy. Unions fight for fair compensation for workers, leading to higher wages, as proven in the EPI report. Higher wages mean greater spending power for the working class. With more disposable income, workers are more likely to engage in the economy as consumers, driving demand for goods and services and stimulating economic growth. The working class is a key player in maintaining a healthy economy. By enhancing the well-being of workers, unions can contribute to a strong, stable economy. 

Myth: “Unions only help union members.” 

Fact: While the primary function of a labour union is to represent and protect its members, unionization benefits all workers. 

A second prong of this misconception is the idea that unions harm non-union workers. Unionization is actually associated with benefits for not only the union members, but also non-unionized workers in the region. As shown in the EPI report, areas with high rates of unionization have higher average wages for both union and non-union workplaces. This is, in part, because unionized workplaces generally have higher wages than their non-unionized counterparts. Therefore, the non-unionized workplaces must increase their wages as well to compete. By advocating for better conditions and compensation for their own members, unions improve circumstances for all workers.  

Myth: “All unions do is go on strike.” 

Fact: Strikes are quite rare.  

The highly visible nature of strikes may skew public perceptions, but the truth is that strikes are just one of many ways unions advocate for workers. The bulk of union activity is far less flashy, but just as important. Some of these activities include negotiating for better wages and work conditions, mediating conflicts between workers and employers, and providing workers with education and resources. Generally, a strike only occurs when collective bargaining negotiations have reached an impasse. In such an instance, the decision is made democratically; a union will only go on strike if a majority of its members vote in favour of doing so. Striking is almost always an absolute last resort.  

Myth: “I like my boss, so I don’t need a union.” 

Fact: Having a positive relationship with a boss or supervisor does not negate the need for union representation.  

Unions can help protect you from factors that are outside your boss’s control, such as corporate policies or economic instability. Further, unions play a bigger role in advocating for workers than simply addressing interpersonal dynamics. Unionizing is about creating a strong, collective voice to secure the rights and interests of the entire workforce.  

Myth: “Unions are no longer necessary.” 

Fact: Labour unions have always been necessary.  

Although workplace conditions have improved over time, unions continue to play a crucial role in protecting workers’ rights. Some of the original goals of the labour movement, such as fighting for fair wages and safe work environments, are still relevant in today’s workplaces. In addition, unions are adapting to advocate for workers in a rapidly evolving professional environment. Emerging technologies and upcoming industries raise new questions about workers’ rights and protections. Unions offer a way for workers to advocate for themselves in this sometimes-uncertain environment. Ultimately, as long as there are workers, there will be a need for labour unions. 

These are some common myths that perpetuate anti-union sentiments. All workers, and especially those who might be considering organizing their workplace, should familiarize themselves with common anti-union rhetoric. By educating yourself on these misconceptions, you can engage more critically with how unions are represented in media and better inform yourself about labour action in your own community.  

The modern workplace is changing rapidly, and modern labour unions have needed to adapt and change alongside it. Among all this change, what has remained constant is the power of worker solidarity and unions’ ability to harness this power for the collective good.