When the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the right to strike in SFL v. Saskatchewan, it curtailed the Canadian state’s ability to intervene and suppress striking activity. Which means that the state is now [somewhat] more limited in its ability to suppress — through police violence or toleration of employers’ thugs — striking workers on behalf of employers, as it did so frequently in the past. That limitation, however modest, is unquestionably a victory for workers.
The SCC surprised this month with Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 – a unanimous decision quashing Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), and unequivocally reaffirming the legitimate expression purpose of picketing during a legal strike. Despite its technical framing as a dispute between privacy and expression interests, this decision is a blow to employers whose interests lie in hampering the union’s ability to effectively dissuade people doing business with the employer.