Small Business and Big Unions



August 27, 2008

CFIB is Canada's largest association of SMEs representing over 100,000 firms. CFIB promotes and protects a system of free competitive enterprise, strengthens the entrepreneurial culture in Canada, and gives independent business a greater voice in determining the laws that govern business and the nation. A non-profit organization, whose members work in all sectors, CFIB is non-partisan and is financed solely by membership dues. As a matter of policy, CFIB does not endorse or promote the products and services of its members.

Well, a year ago we decided to become a part of Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). I was convinced that there would be more financial benefits to belonging to a large body of small businesses, and I think those have been proven correct.  I also have called to get some support from them in the past and find the staff I've talked to be helpful and knowledgable.  The regulations and paperwork are difficult to keep up with and I am glad that the CFIB has sent me material that has helped my business stay within health government guidelines.

However, like all small business organizations in Canada of any size they do have a reputation as being very conservative. Small businesses drive so much of Canada's economy, and yet I do know from long standing experience how difficult it can be to make ends meet.  There is a great deal of risk, even more work and at the end of the day you need to take advantage of whatever savings you can.

OpenConcept isn't unionized and probably will never be, however like many small businesses, we do work with unions.  However, unions and unionized organizations are a significant part of Canada's economy.  Small businesses and unions are not always going to oppose each other's view points. So when I got this letter from a VP of CFIB, I was a bit surprised since they were attacking one of my clients.  

Dear Mr. Gifford,

It has come to our attention that the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), which
represents most labour unions in Canada, has begun a campaign against CFIB in
the Ottawa area. CLC representatives have been visiting local businesses with
a brochure that misrepresents our members' position on a number of key issues.

The brochure tells business owners: "Don't bite the hand that feeds you! Tell
the CFIB to stop attacking your customers who belong to unions." Combined with
statements about the buying power of Ottawa-area union members, this is
a barely-disguised threat against these small businesses.

As you know, CFIB's positions are set by our members: we don't guess what you're
thinking; we ask you for your opinion before we speak on your behalf. We are
a non-partisan organization that regularly works with other groups on important
issues, including border security, insurance premiums, taxation policy and red
tape. This respect for our members' opinions and willingness to work with others
has helped CFIB grow to over 105,000 members and made us the leading small
business group in this country. It is clear that the CLC is upset with CFIB's
ability to effectively represent the views of entrepreneurs like you.

This is not the first time the CLC or other labour group has campaigned against
CFIB and no doubt it won't be the last. If you have any questions about the CLC
campaign, or any other issue involving CFIB, feel free to contact me here in Ottawa
at 613-235-2373 or email me at

Thank you for your continued support of CFIB.

Garth Whyte
Executive Vice President.

Small businesses are also concerned about the well being of their employees.  The social safety net that unions have fought for is something that is extremely beneficial for employers.  This letter that was sent to other members of the CFIB is fearmongering unions. A non-partisan organization shouldn't be providing their members with anti-union propaganda.

The question I want to know the answer to is, "is this going to be the last time the CFIB campaigns against unions?"

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.