SBD/July 8, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Canada's Unifor Pushing For Junior Hockey League Players To Create Union

Canada’s largest private-sector union is "rekindling an effort to unionize 1,300 hockey players in the country’s major junior leagues, two years after the last attempt fizzled in scandal," according to Westhead & Cribb of the TORONTO STAR. Unifor, created in '13 from the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union, has "scheduled an organizing meeting Wednesday in Montreal to convince players to sign union cards and form a board of directors for the prospective United Hockey Players Association." A "leading figure behind the organizing drive" is Glenn Gumbley, whose involvement in a similar effort in '12, then called the Canadian Hockey League Players Association, "failed amid allegations of misrepresentation and secrecy." Unifor is targeting the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League "first because union certification there only needs the support of 50 per cent plus one of the players." The organizing mechanism in Ontario "is more complex." Gumbley, a "self-described union organizing hand, has been recruiting former players from the Quebec junior league to try to coax current players to sign union cards." Westhead and Cribb cite documents that show Gumbley has "been paying the former players $1,000 apiece, expenses that have been covered by Unifor" (TORONTO STAR, 7/8). Unifor President Jerry Dias yesterday said, "The facts are we are a reputable Canadian union and we’re determined. We’re not going to allow the high-priced lawyers that are employed by the league to push us around." He added that Unifor "wants to help junior hockey players because he believes it's part of a larger problem which sees young people exploited in the work force." YAHOO SPORTS' Sunaya Sapurji noted the biggest question is "whether players in the 60-team CHL are actually employees or if they are amateur athletes" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/7).
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